Bill Gates and 27 other billionaires with a collective net worth of $350 billion have joined forces to launch the biggest private climate fund in history. The multi-billion dollar fund, called the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, will focus on cutting edge research and development to accelerate the growth of renewable energy and other sustainable technologies.
As reported yesterday by ZME Science, the fund’s efforts will be doubled by government action in parallel. U.S. President Barack Obama and French President François Hollande joined Gates to unveil a plan which will see the United States, China and 17 other countries double government spending on energy research in the next five years.
The announcement was made on Monday to coincide with the opening day of COP21 in Paris, where already some immense projects were announced like the founding of the International Solar Alliance or the Transformative Carbon Asset.
“It’s got to give the negotiators even more confidence than they’ve had up to now,” said Anne Kelley, who directs the Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy program at Ceres, a coalition of environmentally focused investors. “It sends a message that investors are committed. There’s a sense of inevitability of a low-carbon economy when you talk about this amount of money going into it.
Joining Gates in the massive private initiative are:
- Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com
- Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon
- Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn
- Jack Ma, chairman of Alibaba Group
- Patrice Motsepe, chairman of African Rainbow Minerals
- Xavier Niel, founder of Iliad Group
- Hasso Plattner, chairman of SAP
- Masayoshi Son, CEO of SoftBank Group
- Ratan Tata, chairman emeritus of Tata Sons
- Meg Whitman, CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise
- Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook
- Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries Limited
- John Arnold, co-chair of Laura and John Arnold Foundation
- Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, chairman of Alwaleed Philanthropies
- Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group
- Priscilla Chan, CEO of the Primary School
- Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates
- Aliko Dangote, CEO of Dangote Group
- John Doerr, general partner of Kleiner Perkins
- Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
- Chris Hohn, founder of The Children’s Investment Fund
- Vinod Khosla, founder of Khosla Ventures
- Julian Robertson, chairman of Tiger Management
- Neil Shen, managing partner of Sequoia Capital China
- Nat Simons, co-founder of Prelude Ventures
- Laura Baxter-Simons, co-founder of Prelude Ventures
- George Soros, chairman of Soros Fund Management
- Tom Steyer, president of NextGen Climate
- Pan Shiyi, chairman of of SOHO China
- Zhang Xin, CEO of SOHO China
Besides some of the most important tech executives are also institutions like the University of California and the Office of the Chief Investment Officer United States. No specific details were announced concerning how much the fund is worth, but Gates suggested its in the multi-billion range. The University of California alone announced it will pledge $1 billion, and earlier this summer Gates said he would invest at least $1 billion too. In fact, it was around this time that Gates devised his plan, frustrated by how slow progress is in basic research.
“It was surprising to me that the R&D piece had not been part of the discussion,” Gates said.
“Historically, it takes more than 50 years before you have a substantial shift in energy generation, but we need to do it more quickly,” Gates told The Washington Post. “We need to move faster than the energy sector ever has.”
The announcement was only made today, so we’re really looking forward to hearing about the first projects that will get funded. In time, other billionaires, investment funds and concerned citizens will likely pitch in.