MEDINA, Wash.—As the Obama administration unveils and gets set for a potential legal battle surrounding its Clean Power Plan, Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates has announced a plan of his own. Gates will invest US$1 billion of his fortune in clean energy technology over the next five years. The $1 billion is in addition to any investments the world’s richest man has already made, and Gates notes it “will be a fairly big increase over the investments I am already making.”
“I am doing it because I believe that the next half-decade will bring many breakthroughs that will help solve climate change,” Gates said in an online blog post. “We need to be able to power all sectors of the economy with sources that do not emit any carbon dioxide.”
But Gates also said the impact of the investments he makes will be negligible compared to the choices that governments will make.
“World leaders will take another critical step this December at a major meeting in Paris called COP21, where they will discuss plans to reduce global CO2 emissions significantly,” he said. “COP21 can build a strong foundation for solving the climate crisis—but we will need to go even further.”
Gates’s personal investments currently include companies working on new batteries and other storage methods, as well as those working on advances in solar technology. He is also investing in a team working on a nuclear design that would be safer than previous designs and would go a long way toward solving the nuclear waste problem. He said if governments were to open their research budgets for such projects, he would not only expand his own investments, but believes other individual investors would do the same and join him in taking more risks.
In addition to investing in research and development, Gates thinks governments need to do a better job developing the low-emission energy market using subsidies.
“The IMF estimates that direct subsidies for fossil fuels amount to nearly $500 billion a year worldwide, shielding consumers from their true costs,” he said. “Some subsidies for deploying renewable energy are also very inefficient, creating big incentives to install solar panels where it’s often not sunny or wind turbines where it’s not windy.”
Among the reasons Gates gas decided to invest in clean technology is how environmental change affects the world’s poorest people. He noted people in poor countries are often those who experience some of the more dire consequences of climate change. Nevertheless, he is confident with the right amount of investment and effort, climate change can be effectively countered.
“Digital technology has revolutionized the way people live. We can create a zero-carbon future too, if we commit to it,” Gates said.