A new global research programme has been launched to produce clean energy that is cheaper than coal power within the next 10 years.

The Global Apollo Programme aims to deliver a co-ordinated global research and development effort to accelerate further the downward trend in the cost of solar energy and wind power, and investigate ways to store energy and deploy smart grid technologies, which can better balance electricity demand and supply.

Echoing the 1960s US programme to put a man on the Moon, GAP is backed by leading figures from business, academia, and government, including former UK government chief scientist Sir David King, ex-BP chief Lord John Browne, influential economist Lord Nicholas Stern, and former cabinet secretary Lord Gus O’Donnell.

In a new report to be published today, the peers insist cutting the cost of clean energy is crucial to prevent global temperatures rising higher than 2C. But they also warn current public spending on renewable energy research and development worth $6bn a year is uncoordinated and falls well short of the level needed to deal with the scale of the threat presented by climate change.

GAP would require countries signing up to the programme to commit 0.02 per cent of GDP on its international R&D programme over a 10 year period. With a mimimum $15bn annual spend the programme would aim to further drive down the costs of solar and wind power, as well as help cut energy bills, reduce pollution, and create jobs.

“We believe strongly that, in terms of value for money, this Global Apollo Programme is an essential component of any serious attempt to manage the risks of climate change,” the report reads. “At relatively small cost it will contribute powerfully to a safer and better world.”

King said the project has already been discussed with governments privately and received an enthusiastic response, especially with G7 nations as well as China, Korea, UAE, and India.

G7 energy ministers have already pledged to work with each other to coordinate clean energy research efforts and the GAP proposal will be on the agenda when G7 leaders meet in Germany next week.