Multibillion Gates clean-energy fund to boost climate talks

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(Bloomberg) -- Bill Gates, the world’s richest man, and fellow philanthropists on Monday will unveil a multibillion- dollar fund for clean-energy technology that’s key to combating climate change, according to an environmental group briefed on the announcement.

The effort, described as the biggest clean-energy research commitment in history, is intended to boost United Nations talks on climate change set to begin in Paris on Sunday, said Jake Schmidt, international program director at New York-based Natural Resources Defense Council. He was briefed on the partnership by U.S. and French government officials.

It’s expected to involve Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft Corp., and other wealthy philanthropists committing their own money to support new research and development, he said. They will collaborate with research programs in the U.S., India and about 10 other countries. The U.S. may commit to doubling funding for clean-energy research and other countries may also increase their support, Schmidt said, adding that he’s not been given the full details.

“There’s going to have to be a number of things set in motion in the coming years to put us on that trajectory,” Schmidt said by phone on Sunday. “We know we’re going to have to drive down the costs of technology deployment and maybe even create some new technologies.”

U.S. Support

More than 140 world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama and Xi Jinping of China, will meet in Paris for talks aimed at producing an agreement that for the first time binds all nations, rich and poor, to cutting pollution from burning coal, oil and gas that’s blamed for a rise in global temperatures. Convincing developing nations of the merits of phasing out fossil fuel remains a sticking point in the negotiations.

“The idea is to show that these countries and these entrepreneurs are going to step up their effort to help speed up the kinds of emissions cuts we’re going to need,” Schmidt said.

Breakthroughs in solar technology and battery storage will be critical if developing countries are going to meet their energy needs while weaning off fossil fuels, according to Jennifer Morgan, climate-director at the World Resources Institute, a Washington advocacy group.

Paris Boost

“It’s going to give the Paris negotiations a boost right from the beginning,” she said. “If we don’t get the technology right and moving fast enough in the right places, we won’t get there.”

The partnership and Gates’ role was first reported Nov. 27 by the online news organization ClimateWire. Messages to Gates’ think tank, BgC3 LLC, were not returned over the weekend. A White House spokesman didn’t immediately respond to questions seeking comment.

Gates, who has an estimated net worth of $84.6 billion, said in a July blog post that he would devote $1 billion of his own money to clean-energy research over the next five years and called on governments to boost their spending as well.

“If we create the right environment for innovation, we can accelerate the pace of progress, develop and deploy new solutions, and eventually provide everyone with reliable, affordable energy that is carbon free,” he wrote. “We can avoid the worst climate-change scenarios while also lifting people out of poverty, growing food more efficiently, and saving lives by reducing pollution.”