Bill Gates Thinks Wealthy Investors Should Risk More on Clean Energy Solutions

  • Bill Gates anticipates missing the 2-degree Celsius heating goal set by the Paris Agreement, emphasizing the need for rapid global action.
  • Gates has praised the efforts of rich countries in the green transition but calls for increased support for developing nations to adapt to climate change.
  • In his New York Times article, Gates advocates for wealthy investors to fund transformative green solutions, lifestyle changes, and government incentives to drive a global green transition.

Bill Gates believes we’re going to miss global heating goals based on the current rate of the green transition and thinks that billionaires and governments from rich nations could play a major role in global decarbonization. Gates recently stated that he expects the world to fail to achieve the below 2-degree Celsius heating objective set out in the Paris Agreement, although he praised the rapid adaption of several countries attempting a green transition.

This December, the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft said that the world is likely to surpass the critical temperature threshold established by scientists to avoid potentially irreversible impacts on people and the environment. However, he suggested he was hopeful that climate summits such as COP would help drive change. Gates stated, “There is not some binary cut-off where at a certain temperature everything is horrible.” He explained, “Fortunately, we’ve made enough progress that we’re not going to have the extreme cases like of 4 degrees [Celsius] warming, but we’ll sadly probably even miss the 2-degree goal. So, we’ll have adaptation as a priority.” 

Gates’ assumption is based on the forecasts of several energy and climate organizations. The United Nations Environment Programme warned that current Paris Agreement pledges if achieved, are expected to limit global heating to 2.9 degrees Celsius of warming above pre-industrial levels. If the ideal 1.5oC warming threshold is not achieved, it could lead to more severe weather events, rising sea levels, and the loss of mass areas of land, as well as several other environmental disasters. It would also require people and countries to adapt rapidly and significantly to a new reality to survive. 

At a climate and growth conference in France, Gates praised the adaption efforts of several rich countries to accelerate the global green transition. He said that these efforts should continue and that rich countries should support developing countries in adapting to the climate change being seen now. This suggests that several countries are already beginning to adapt, but far more needs to be done to support the global response to climate change.

This month, Bill Gates also wrote an article for the New York Times entitled ‘How I Invest My Money in a Warming World’. In the publication, Gates suggests that we may not be doomed due to failing to achieve optimal climate aims, but we must act wisely in response to the inevitable change. He believes that wealthy investors should take more risks when it comes to developing transformative green solutions, particularly those that are currently underfunded, such as green hydrogen. Gates also calls on the richest in society to change their lifestyles by using sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) to power private jets, which would reduce emissions and could ultimately help drive down the price of SAF for commercial flights. 

When it comes to private companies and governments, Gates says they must invest in green products and technologies, through schemes such as electrifying their fleets. Companies should reduce ‘green premiums’ – higher prices put on environmentally friendly products, investing in the production of cleaner products to sell, rather than investing in ineffective climate change schemes. Meanwhile, governments must introduce new competitive, climate policies with tax incentives, as well as provide favourable business environments for green alternatives, as seen through the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act. Gates believes that once these top-down changes are introduced, everyone must contribute to a global green transition. 

Gates is a key example of a billionaire who’s putting the money where his mouth is, having launched a variety of green-focused businesses. In 2016, Gates co-founded Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV), a fund that has invested over $2 billion in companies aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The group consists of a group of entrepreneurs, business leaders, and institutional investors looking to bring new zero-emissions energy technologies to market. 

In addition to BEV, Gates also has major nuclear energy ambitions. He founded the nuclear power company TerraPower to progress advanced nuclear energy through the development of small nuclear reactors (SMR). The company is working in collaboration with GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy to develop its Natrium™ technology, which features a cost-competitive sodium fast reactor combined with a molten salt energy storage system. The innovative combination is expected to help provide clean energy to power grids. At COP28, TerraPower and the UAE state-owned nuclear company ENEC announced they signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on studying the potential development of advanced reactors in the UAE and abroad. 

While Gates’ expectation for global warming may seem pessimistic, he is mainly focused on the need to continue accelerating the global green transition and adapt to the effects of climate change, with the belief that both are possible. In many of his speeches and through his actions, such as the establishment of BEV and TerraPower, Gates suggests that although climate change is inevitable, the individual and collaborative work of billionaires, private companies, governments, and individuals worldwide can help the world prepare for climate change and mitigate the risk.