Can Gates, Bezos and Zuckerberg battle climate change and win?


While politicians squabble and compromise in search of a workable deal to combat climate change, a superhero team of the world’s tech titans hopes to save the world by championing the clean energy projects of the future.

Announced at the COP21 UN climate conference in Paris, the Breakthrough Energy Coalition acknowledges the simple fact that: “the world needs widely available energy that is reliable, affordable and does not produce carbon.”

The new coalition is backed by the likes of Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Alibaba founder Jack Ma, SAP Chairman Hasso Plattner and CEO Marc Benioff, all successful entrepreneurs who have never waited for change, they have driven it.

The stakes could not be higher.

Global warming is causing droughts and crop failures
Global warming is changing the climate in a way that is a terrible threat to existing ecosystems.

“The world is going to be using 50 percent more energy by mid-century than it does today,” said former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates. “That should be good news, especially for the world’s poorest, because right now more than 1 billion people live without access to basic energy services.

“But the world’s growing demand for energy is also a big problem, because most of that energy comes from hydrocarbons, which emit greenhouse gases and drive climate change. So we need to move to sources of energy that are affordable and reliable, and don’t produce any carbon.”

Thus, the aim of the COP21 conference is for the 195 participating countries to agree on a plan to reduce carbon emissions. The target is to limit global warming to 2C. Achieving this means switching more of the world’s energy production to renewable sources like wind and solar. But that’s not enough on its own.

Current green technologies need to be more efficient, more scalable and considerably cheaper.

The Breakthrough Energy Coalition wants to fund high-risk, breaththrough energy companies and clean energy projects.

The problem, as the Breakthrough Energy Coalition points out, is that: “The existing system of basic research, clean energy investment, regulatory frameworks, and subsidies fails to sufficiently mobilize investment in truly transformative energy solutions for the future. We can’t wait for the system to change through normal cycles.”

It’s why the coalition plans to invest early in transformative ideas that traditional investors and venture capital firms would find too risky. The idea is to get those ideas — in sectors such as electricty generation and storage, transportation and energy system efficiency — out of the lab and into active development

“We won’t be able to make meaningful progress on other challenges — like educating or connecting the world — without secure energy and a stable climate,” said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on his Facebook page. “Yet progress towards a sustainable energy system is too slow, and the current system doesn’t encourage the kind of innovation that will get us there faster.”

The Breakthrough Energy Coalition has its mission: Accelerate change and shift us towards the advanced energy future our planet needs to survive. Considering the potential consequences of a 2C temperature rise — rising sea levels, freshwater shortages, catastrophic weather events and crop failures — there’s no greater challenge for the tech industry to tackle. — Dean Evans (@evansdp)

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