Microsoft founder and tech's richest man, Bill Gates, is heading an all-star investment fund looking to take climate change seriously.
The Breakthrough Energy Ventures fund (BEV) plans to invest heavily in commercialising technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions in electricity generation, transport, industry, agriculture and elsewhere. “Anything that leads to cheap, clean, reliable energy we're open-minded to,” explained Gates, chairman of the new group.
Alongside Gates, the BEV fund has a board of directors features Alibaba founder Jack Ma, chairman of Reliance Industries Mukesh Ambani, former hedge fund manager John Arnold, SAP co-founder Hasso Plattner as well as venture capitalists John Doerr and Vinod Khosla.
If you tally up their cumulative net worth, it comes close to US$170 billion. The fund's 20 first investors includes the likes of Amazon's Jeff Bezos, Virgin's Richard Branson and Bridgewater Associates' Ray Dalio.
Return on investment in the energy sector – especially when you rule out business as usual – is a tough ask, but Gates is optimistic that his investors will get good returns in the long run: with both financial and environmental rewards. “People think you can just put US$50 million in and wait two years and then you know what you got. In this energy space, that's not true at all.”
“It's such a big market that the value if you're really providing a big portion of the world's energy, the value of that will be super, super big.”
The announcement comes at a tme that a climate change denier is in line to run the second biggest polluting country on the planet. Donald Trump has a long history of denying the science of climate change, promising to renegotiate the precarious Paris climate agreement while campaigning.
Although he has made some slightly more encouraging noises since, they're not loud enough to silence the deafening clang of putting someone who believes global warming is a myth in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Most recently, Trump has described himself as “open-minded” to the causes of climate change. “I'm still open-minded. Nobody really knows,” Trump told Fox News' Chris Wallace. "Look, I'm somebody that gets it, and nobody really knows. It's not something that's so hard and fast."
I hope he's right, but then it helps to strike an optimistic tone when trying to attract investors. And Trump has already scrapped NASA's climate research budget as “politicised science” so I wouldn't bet the farm on the idea of research not being a partisan thing, if I were you.
Lead image: Gisela Guardino used under Creative Commons