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Bill Gates secures $1bn from US firms for climate fight

Gates’ Breakthrough Energy’s efforts include investment vehicles, philanthropic programs, policy advocacy, and other initiatives, such as Catalyst. (Image courtesy of World Economic Forum | Photo by Moritz Hager.)

Bill Gates has secured more than $1 billion in corporate funding for Breakthrough Energy Catalyst from seven large US companies to develop some of the world’s most challenging clean-energy projects.

Breakthrough Energy, a non-profit founded by Gates in 2016, said on Monday that the backers — Microsoft, BlackRock, General Motors, American Airlines, Boston Consulting Group, Bank of America and ArcelorMittal — were providing a mix of equity capital and offtakes — purchase agreements tied to the projects. 

The Washington-headquartered firm said the funds will be allocated to Breakthrough Energy Catalyst (BEC), a project launched earlier this year that’s aiming to finance, produce, and buy new solutions that will help underpin a zero-carbon economy. 

Breakthrough Energy Catalyst was launched earlier this year to finance, produce, and buy the new solutions that will help underpin a zero-carbon economy

“We’re not doing this to make money,” Larry Fink, chief executive of BlackRock’s CEO, said in a TV interview with Gates. “We’re doing this to seed these ideas, to rapidly accelerate ideas.” 

BEC focuses on fast-tracking the commercial viability of four key solutions considered key to the world’s climate crisis: green hydrogen, sustainable aviation fuel, long-duration battery storage and carbon capture from the air.  

None of those four technologies are currently cheap enough to spur widespread adoption, Gates said during the interview. “Catalyst is designed to change that and provide an effective way to invest in our clean technology future,” he noted. 

BlackRock has pledged $100 million over five years through its charitable foundation, while MicrosoftAmerican Airlines and ArcelorMittal have committed the same amount. The others did not disclose the size of their investments. 

Aditya Mittal, CEO of ArcelorMittal, said initiatives like Breakthrough Energy Catalyst are “critical” for the company and the wider steel industry. 

“The steel industry knows how to decarbonize – essentially what is missing is the availability of clean energy at competitive prices that provides the foundation for us to really accelerate,” he said. 

Metals needed

The world needs aluminum, cobalt, copper, lithium and nickel to propel the switch to a green economy. More than $1 trillion of investment will be required in those key commodities over the next 15 years just to meet the growing demands of decarbonization if global warming is to be kept to less than two degrees by 2050, a recent study by consultancy firm Wood Mackenzie showed. 

That conclusion was backed in a highly anticipated report by the UN’s climate panel. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned in August that limiting global warming to close to 1.5 degrees Celsius or even 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels “will be beyond reach” in the next two decades without immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. 

Gates is not the only billionaire involved in pushing green technologies. Tesla CEO Elon Musk vowed to invest $100 million in new carbon capture solutions and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos created last year the $10 billion Bezos Earth Fund, equivalent to about 7% of his net worth, to stop climate change. 

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