Bill Gates at the Munich Security Conference on February 17, 2017 in Munich, Germany.
Michael Gottschalk | Getty
Bill Gates has raised hundreds of millions from seven major US companies to develop clean technologies that could play a key role in the fight against climate change.
Breakthrough Energy, a nonprofit founded by Gates in 2016, announced Monday that it has secured investments from Microsoft, BlackRock, General Motors, American Airlines, Boston Consulting Group, Bank of America and ArcelorMittal.
The overall size of the investments was not disclosed, but it is believed to be over $ 1 billion. Breakthrough Energy did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNBC.
The Washington-based company said the money would be used to fund its “Breakthrough Energy Catalyst,” a project launched earlier this year that aims to finance, produce and purchase the new solutions that will help support a zero-carbon economy.
Gates said in a statement that a “new industrial revolution” is necessary if the world is to avoid a climate catastrophe.
“Half of the technology needed to achieve zero emissions does not yet exist or is too expensive for much of the world,” said the Microsoft co-founder. “Catalyst is designed to change that and provide an effective way to invest in our clean technology future.”
He added, “By working with this growing community of private and public partners, Catalyst will take a holistic view of the energy innovation landscape – key technologies, leading companies, financial partners and critical policies – and fund them. projects that have the greatest positive impact on our planet. “
The program will initially focus on direct air capture, green hydrogen, long-lasting energy storage and sustainable aviation fuel.
BlackRock has pledged $ 100 million over five years through its charitable foundation, while Microsoft, American Airlines and ArcelorMittal have pledged the same amount. The others did not disclose the size of their investments.
Corporate giants support climate action
Larry Fink, CEO and Chairman of BlackRock, said in a statement that the transition to a net zero world is “the shared responsibility of every citizen, business and government,” adding that a global energy transition will require $ 50 trillion.
Despite what world leaders and CEOs are saying, the so-called energy transition is not yet happening. Global use of fossil fuels is accelerating and is expected to worsen further, exacerbating the risk of a climate catastrophe.
“It is absolutely true that the transition is proceeding too slowly from a climate point of view, but what is important to recognize is that it is above all a question of political will and economic choices” said Carroll Muffett, executive director of the nonprofit Center. for international environmental law, told CNBC in April.
A long-awaited report by the UN climate panel warned in August that limiting global warming to nearly 1.5 degrees Celsius or even 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels “will be out of reach” over the next two decades with no immediate, rapid and significant effect. downscaling of greenhouse gas emissions.
“Our partnership with the Catalyst Program represents a five-year philanthropic commitment to invest in cutting-edge science that will help advance vital clean energy solutions,” said Fink.
Aditya Mittal, CEO of ArcelorMitta, the largest steel maker in North America, said in a statement that initiatives such as Breakthrough Energy Catalyst are “critical” for the company and the steel industry at large.
“The steel industry knows how to decarbonize – what is essentially missing is the availability of clean energy at competitive prices that allows us to really step up,” he said.
Gates isn’t the only tech billionaire trying to tackle climate change. Elsewhere, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos created the $ 10 billion Bezos Earth Fund, while Tesla CEO Elon Musk pledged to invest $ 100 million in new technology to capture the earth. carbon.
Some argue that this is the least tech billionaires can do, as they themselves are one of the main causes of climate change. Others questioned whether they were focusing their climate change mitigation efforts in the right areas.
– Additional reporting by CNBC’s Sam Meredith.