Climate talks: Why Bill Gates expects to pledge $1 billion for 'clean energy'

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is expected to announce $1 billion, and perhaps more, in support of clean-energy technologies while in Paris for the global climate summit.

REUTERS/China Daily/File
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates gestures as he meets with China's Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing, November 12, 2015.

On Monday, while in Paris for the global climate summit, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is expected to announce $1 billion, and perhaps more, in support of clean-energy technologies.

A source told ClimateWire that "This is the single biggest cooperative research and development partnership in history.”

The money is expected to fund cooperative projects between the US and India, intended to support India’s transition to a cleaner-energy economy.

Many developing countries, including India, have taken the position that developed nations should contribute financially to help those countries that are still catching up - in terms of quality of life - to reduce their emissions.

In the Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) plan that India submitted ahead of the Paris climate talks, the Indian government outlined a plan for introducing new, more efficient energy technologies - such as solar and wind power - to India’s national grid, but also noted that it would take outside funds to help reduce India’s current dependence on coal, which currently accounts for 60.8 percent of India’s electrical capacity.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation does not typically fund research into clean energy, focusing its funding instead on issues like maternal health and poverty. But as recently as 2010, when he gave a TED talk on the subject, Mr. Gates has expressed interest in investing his personal fortune in clean-energy technologies.

In that talk, he said that “[Advancing] civilization is based on advances in energy,” and went on to outline his vision for how reducing the cost of clean energy could bring the world’s poorest nations out of poverty.

Then, this past summer, Gates announced his intentions to contribute $1 billion of his personal fortune – separate from grants the Gates Foundation makes – towards clean energy technology over the next five years. Forbes estimates his net worth at $79.5 billion.

“I think this issue is especially important because, of all the people who will be affected by climate change, those in poor countries will suffer the most,” he wrote in his personal blog. “Higher temperatures and less-predictable weather would hurt poor farmers, most of whom live on the edge and can be devastated by a single bad crop.”

Gates’ new, multi-billion-dollar commitment for the Paris climate talks is expected to receive the support of other billionaires, who will also be in attendance in Paris, according to the New York Times. It has also received the backing of leaders from the United States, China, and India.

As part of the agreement on how the seed money should be handled, the United States will be doubling its investment in research and development on clean-energy technologies, most likely to support R&D projects in India.

A global climate agreement has not been updated since the nations met in Copenhagen in 2009. Many are optimistic that the Paris climate talks could get an important boost from financial pledges, such as the one from Gates.

"It's spectacular what public research and development has created in this country. You cannot name a single technology that hasn't had a huge boost [from public funding]," Hal Harvey, CEO of environmental consulting firm Energy Innovation, told ClimateWire.

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