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19 Sep 2019

Bill Gates tells FT divestment from fossil fuels is not the answer

In an interview published in the Financial Times on 17 September, Microsoft co-founder and prominent philanthropist Bill Gates says divestment from fossil fuels is not the solution to combatting climate change. Instead, he points to what he calls disruptive technologies and cutting-edge private sector energy companies as the most effective methods for reducing carbon emissions.

“Divestment, to date, probably has reduced about zero tonnes of emissions. It’s not like you’ve capital-starved [the] people making steel and gasoline,” he said. “I don’t know the mechanism of action where divestment [keeps] emissions [from] going up every year. I’m just too damn numeric.”

Instead, Gates urges investors to explore innovative, high-tech businesses and the latest energy technology to achieve better results.

“When I’m taking billions of dollars and creating breakthrough energy ventures and funding only companies who, if they’re successful, reduce greenhouse gases by 0.5 per cent, then I actually do see a cause and effect type thing,” he said.

The FT article also made reference to the 17 September release of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s annual “Goalkeepers” report, which tracks global progress towards reaching the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Next week, the UN General Assembly is scheduled to convene in New York with world leaders reaffirming their support for achieving these ambitious goals, but Gates says there is still much work to be done.

“We’re nowhere near improving fast enough to reach those goals,” he said. “It is a terrible injustice that the people who suffer the most are the poorest farmers in the world. They didn’t do anything to cause climate change, but because they rely on rain for their livelihoods, they are at the front lines of coping with it.”