Bill Gates Leads Unprecedented Coalition to Fund Green Technologies

The business leader and philanthropist makes a big announcement during COP21.

LONDON -- The world’s largest climate change summit in Paris has brought not only the union of state leaders but also the private sector to tackle what has become a global threat. Under the leadership of the world’s richest person, Bill Gates, their goal is ambitious: get greenhouse gas emissions down to zero.

The Specifics

Breakthrough Energy Coalition, a private group of billionaire investors, is a compliment to Mission Innovation, a public international commitment to fueling research and development in the clean-energy arena. In a statement, the White House said 20 countries are committing to doubling their investment over five years, including the five most populous nations: China, India, the United States, Indonesia and Brazil. With technology as a guiding principle, “the new model will be a public-private partnership between governments, research institutions and investors,” the White House said.

Gates hopes to pour in billions of dollars to new companies and research efforts that are involved in developing technologies that bring clean energy to all aspects of our lives.

Who’s Involved?

Months ahead of COP21, Gates announced a personal $2 billion investment in renewable energy to “bend the curve” on climate change. The Breakthrough Energy Coalition has 28 investors from 10 countries in the project. “What we’re asking ourselves to do here is change energy, and that includes all of transport, all of electricity, all of household usage and all of industrial usage,” Gates told The Atlantic.

Backers include Hewlett Packard’s Meg Whitman, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan, Indian industrial titans Ratan Tata and Mukesh Amabani, business magnate George Soros, and the head of Amazon, Jeff Bezos. Gates says, “people like myself, who can afford to take big risks with start-up companies, should — because of climate change — be willing to put some number of billions into the spin-offs that will come out of that government-funded activity.”

What’s in It for Us?

In a report on the coalition’s site, Gates writes, “1 billion people lack access to the most basic energy services.”

The investment group aims to make zero-carbon energy available to everyone. One example of a technology he hopes to make available for wide use is solar paint. It could power homes and cars and could be easily implemented. The challenge is to make it safe to use, he says.