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Not content to let VCs and private investors have all the fun, the World Bank, U.S., Britain and Japan have announced they will raise at least $5.5 billion for two climate change funds — a cleantech fund, which will begin with $5 billion, and one for research and development, with $500 million. The cleantech fund, which will be supported by 40 developing and industrialized countries, will help poor countries gain access to clean technologies.

The World Bank will set up the funds this July and hopes to raise the cash by the end of the fall, Katherine Sierra, its vice president for sustainable development, told Bloomberg News during a three-day G8 meeting. Japanese officials also announced the creation of the Cool Earth Partnership, which will disburse $10 billion in financial support to the developing world over the next 5 years.

The Cool Earth Partnership, which will set aside $8 billion for assistance in climate change mitigation and $2 billion for clean energy grants, will begin disbursing funds later this year. The decision came in response to developing countries’ demands that rich nations help pay for expensive clean energy projects and provide them with the equipment and know-how to meet their global emissions targets. The private sector can only do so much, Brazil’s envoy said, arguing that it was the developed world’s responsibility to ensure poor countries have access to clean technologies.

Around 190 countries have agreed so far to negotiate a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol by the end of 2009; Japan, which will be chairing the G8 summit in Hokkaido later this year, recently pledged to invest about $30 billion in its energy and environment sectors over the next 5 years. Specifically, it will focus on accelerating the development of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies and low-cost, high-efficiency rooftop solar generators.

Several startups we’ve covered in the past, including D. Light Design and Hyperion, are targeting developing world markets in the belief that their high populations and unique infrastructure problems will yield more profit opportunities. D. Light Design offers a cheap, solar-powered LED device for home lighting and hookups to charge radios and cell phones while Hyperion is selling off-the-grid nuclear-powered generators.

While the $5.5 billion sum may dwarf some of the recent VC funds we’ve written about, it remains to be seen how transparent and effective the mechanisms for disbursing the money will be. Accusations of neglect and graft have plagued the UN’s clean development mechanism (CDM) program, with two recent analyses alleging that it had wasted billions and was being routinely bilked by utilities claiming emission reduction credits for projects that shouldn’t qualify.

Where most of this funding will go is also an open question: Countries like China and Brazil have already built up robust cleantech infrastructures, in solar and biofuels, respectively, but other developing nations have lacked the necessary expertise and R&D budgets. The World Bank is already working with China to develop its wind power capacity and lent it $67 million in 2005 to develop a 100 megawatt project on Pingtan Island, off the coast of Fuzhou. In the past, it has also supported sustainable infrastructure, water management, energy efficiency and CCS projects.


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