ImpactAlpha, Feb. 11 – Bill Gates has been investing for years in breakthrough technology to help thwart climate change, from solar upstart Heliogen to alternative protein maker Impossible Foods to the Breakthrough Energy Ventures fund. Partly for that reason, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation stayed away from climate as a program area.
Now, the Gates Foundation, with $47 billion the world’s largest, will put climate change at the top of its agenda as well. In their annual letter, the Gates’ write that after spending two decades and nearly $54 billion on global health and education, they will turn their attention to climate change (Bill) and gender equality (Melinda).
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“Tackling climate change is going to demand historic levels of global cooperation, unprecedented amounts of innovation in nearly every sector of the economy, widespread deployment of today’s clean-energy solutions like solar and wind, and a concerted effort to work with the people who are most vulnerable to a warmer world,” wrote Gates.
No more than 3% of global giving is addressed to climate change. “The amount of global philanthropy aimed at putting the world on the path to a reasonable climate future is disgraceful — there’s no other word for it,” wrote Hewlett Foundation’s Larry Kramer in a plea to grantmakers last month in the Chronicle of Philanthropy.
It’s not that climate is more important than everything else, he said, but that it is inextricably connected to everything else. “Simply put, if we fail on climate, we fail on everything.” Hewlett has committed $600 million over five years to catalyze climate solutions.
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Mitigation and adaptation
The climate strategy will focus on supporting zero-emission energy sources that can inexpensively be deployed in low-income regions, as well as helping vulnerable populations, such as subsistence farmers, withstand droughts and other climate-related effects.
The Gates Foundation has already funded research into drought- and flood-tolerant varieties of crops like maize and rice. And it recently created a new nonprofit, St. Louis-based Agricultural Innovations, to help smallholder farmers adapt to climate change.
The foundation will support a range of partners to combat gender inequality and change societal norms. In October, Melinda Gates’ Pivotal Ventures committed $1 billion to accelerate gender equality in the U.S. over the next decade.