One of the main goals driving both tech companies and government leaders in the 21st Century is to “go green” so that the planet will not suffer from the potentially catastrophic consequences of global warming. Microsoft founder Bill Gates has been particularly focused on this matter, starting a clean tech initiative with leaders of 190 countries.
Gates launched the initiative during the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, which runs from November 30 to December 11. Countries who agree to the initiative will commit to doubling their efforts on clean technology research, as well as doubling the development of clean tech by 2020. Private investors will also lend a hand in the sector as well. Reports have stated that France, the United States, India, South Korea, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Canada and Norway have given their immediate support.
Gates, alongside Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, United States President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande announced the initiative on the opening day of the two-week summit. India, the third-largest greenhouse gas emitter, is a key player in the initiative, namely because it is still a developing country arguing that developed countries should assist poorer countries in order to access renewable energy and zero-emission technologies—namely by reducing costs and removing barriers to entry such as intellectual property rights.
Reports from the French delegation have said that India is going to be one of the key countries involved in Gates’ clean tech initiative. “This is one of the main points of the negotiation: how to improve clean technologies and give the poorest countries access to these technologies,” they said. Gates has also offered $2 billion of his own personal money over five years to combat climate change, and will be speaking to world leaders during the conference to implement the Clean Tech Initiative.
Gates also stressed that the public and private sector must work together on accelerating clean tech development, and that innovation will play a key part in getting the Clean Tech Initiative to work. “Expanding the government’s support for energy research will lead to another important step: attracting more private investment to the field. As early-stage ideas progress, private capital will pour in to build the companies that will deliver those ideas to market. We need hundreds of companies working on thousands of ideas, including crazy-sounding ones that don’t get enough funding, such as high-altitude wind and solar chemical. No one knows which of these technologies will prove powerful enough and easy to scale, so we should be exploring all of them,” he said in a blog post in July.
Gates also argued that poorer countries would be affected the most if no action is taken. “Higher temperatures and less-predictable weather would hurt poor farmers, most of whom live on the edge and can be devastated by a single bad crop. Food supplies could decline. Hunger and malnutrition could rise. It would be a terrible injustice to let climate change undo any of the past half-century’s progress against poverty and disease—and doubly unfair because the people who will be hurt the most are the ones doing the least to cause the problem.”
He also argued that action on climate change could help reduce poverty, which could lift many poorer countries—generally concentrated in Africa and Asia—out of developing country status and make them attractive markets for investment. “Affordable clean energy will help fight poverty. Although the Gates Foundation does not fund energy research (my investments are separate), we see through our work with the poorest how the high price of energy affects them by adding to the cost of transportation, electricity, fertilizer and many other things they need.”