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The world cannot handle the climate change crisis without new technologies: Bill Gates

As for the climate change crisis, green technologies should become cheap enough for every country to use, Bill Gates says.

With a potential recession looming, Bill Gates is gearing up to raise a new fund for Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV) to support innovative climate startups, after $2 billion in funds that combined have helped fund roughly 100 companies.

“Even if the exuberance in investing in tech and climate companies has abated a bit, I still think we’ll be able to raise the money,” Gates said on the latest episode of Bloomberg Green’s podcast, Zero. “It’s not as easy as it was say six months ago, but we’re looking at another round for the startups and a pool under Breakthrough Energy Management making investments at a later stage.”

While companies like Tesla have helped turn the dream of an electric car into an increasingly mature reality, and solar and wind now provide cheaper energy than fossil fuel alternatives, many of the technologies needed to make the reduce emissions in other sectors, which are still in their infancy. The $374 billion provided by the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) to support climate and energy-related technologies is expected to spur innovation aimed at addressing those challenges.

Gates hopes his work with Breakthrough will also lead to a transformation of the global economy that will bring us closer to a zero-emission world. Many of the companies BEV currently invests in are seeking to scale innovations in carbon-intensive but non-glamorous industries, such as low-carbon cement and low-carbon steel.

“Without innovation, you will never solve climate change,” Gates said.

The Microsoft co-founder joined Zero to discuss how BEV helps drive innovation, as well as his involvement with the IRA, which Bloomberg reported in more detail in August. He also spoke about how Europe can tackle emissions while facing an energy crisis.

This is an edited and condensed version of Zero’s interview with Gates. You can listen to the full conversation below and read a full transcript here.

Akshat: In August you said that the Inflation Reduction Act could change American innovations in American industries. How is the bill doing?

Gates: There is a lot of money in it for things like long-term storage, green hydrogen, better electricity transmission, direct air capture [and] production processes without CO2 emissions, including cement and steel. At a very early stage, a low-emission way of making cement will be more expensive, which means a huge green premium.

Akshat: Simply put, the green premium is the difference in cost between doing something in a way that produces greenhouse gases and doing the same thing without releasing those emissions.

Ports: Yes. The magic comes where the green premium goes to zero, so you can tell middle-income countries — which emit 65% of emissions — “This new way of making cement doesn’t have a green premium.” That’s the only way they can get to zero, since rich countries won’t subsidize trillions of dollars, and middle-income countries won’t slow down to shelter their citizens if they know the rich countries are responsible for the historic emissions.

Akshat: If there was one sector of the tech space that I had to pick and say that I was stunned, amazed, surprised at the sheer number of ideas that came out, to me it’s carbon removal. Is it a different answer for you?

Gates: I would say that the various agricultural innovations surprise me a bit. The basic idea of ​​how nature makes food. For example, there is money to improve and develop photosynthesis itself to be twice as effective. I always thought farming would be the toughest, but I see a lot of things there.

Akshat: What happens here in Europe with the war in Ukraine will be spectacularly bad for the people because of the high energy prices. How do you think Europe should deal with this while sticking to its climate goals?

Gates: Yeah, it’s a very scary situation. Unfortunately, most climate cases are at best solutions for five to ten years. So when people say to me, “Hey, we like your climate stuff because we can tell Putin we don’t need him,” I say, “Yeah, call him in 10 years and tell him you don’t need him. it.” So it’s a very difficult set of trade-offs. Very unexpected. I think it’s good for the climate in the long run. You have to find a solution in the short term, even if that means increasing emissions. And the sooner that war ends, the better, but there are many considerations needed to end it.

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