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Bill Gates and his rich friends want to save the world

Is the money of tech billionaires enough to stop climate change?


AJ Dellinger


Posted on Nov 30, 2015   Updated on May 27, 2021, 2:04 pm CDT

Tech companies always claim they’re going to “change the world,” but a group of the biggest names in the industry might actually do it. Some of the world’s wealthiest people are joining forces with a new organization designed to develop clean technologies and address climate change.

The organization, known as the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, was officially announced on Sunday. It’s a almost Forbes List of the world’s richest people: Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, Alibaba CEO Jack Ma, Hewlett Packard CEO Meg Whitman, and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson are all on board, among others with equally deep pockets.

Breakthrough Energy Coalition’s arrival coincides with the ongoing United Nations Climate Control Conference taking place over the course of the week in Paris. 

While the group has not announced any specific monetary investment, it has made a commitment to distribute funds to technologies and initiatives that will help to bring the world closer to a “zero emissions energy future.” The coalition will aim at investing in a variety of sectors including electricity generation and storage, transportation, industrial use, agriculture, and, energy system efficiency. Bill Gates referred to these investments as “novel technologies,” or technologies that improve efficiency, scalability, or affordability in comparison to current options.

President Barack Obama, who is in Paris for the U.N. conference, endorsed the commitment of Gates and others. The group represents the private sector’s role in and commitment to addressing environmental concerns. 

On the governmental side, President Obama announced yesterday Mission Innovation, a plan to dramatically accelerate clean energy innovation to address climate change. Nineteen countries have already signed on to the initiative to pour $20 billion clean-energy research and development by 2020, according to the Washington Post

In an interview earlier this month with the Atlantic, Gates said the world is in need of an “energy miracle” and emphasized the importance of addressing the current concerns with a partnership between the private sector and government—though he didn’t provide a ringing endorsement for either. 

“Yes, the government will be somewhat inept—but the private sector is in general inept. How many companies do venture capitalists invest in that go poorly? By far most of them,” he said. “And it’s just that every once in a while a Google or a Microsoft comes out, and some medium-scale successes too, and so the overall return is there, and so people keep giving them money.”

H/T GeekWirePhoto via OnInnovation/Flickr (CC BY ND 2.0)

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*First Published: Nov 30, 2015, 11:07 pm CST