Gates steals the show at COP21 opening with billions for renewables and research

Gates steals the show at COP21 opening with billions for renewables and research

By our special correspondent Eric J. Lyman (@EricJLyman)

PARIS – Microsoft founder and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates used the high-profile opening of the Paris climate summit to unveil plans for a coalition of private investors, governments, and research institutions to pour billions of dollars into a new fund aimed at developing renewable energy sources.

Gates and leaders from 20 countries — including U.S. President Barack Obama — formally announced the plan on the sidelines of the COP-21 summit. The countries have promised to double research and development spending for clean energy projects and other initiatives to help confront climate change.

The University of California system, with ten campuses and two national-class research laboratories is Gates’ main partner in the project, called the Breakthrough Energy Coalition.

The 60-year-old Gates is one of 28 individuals who have added their own resources to the project, pledging at least $2 billion. Speaking to reporters before the formal announcement, Gates said he expected that total to grow quickly.

“There were no formal invitations; these were just people who stepped up,” Gates said. “With this high profile launch, I would not be surprised if others came forward by next week.”

The plan will use a venture-capitalist-style system to evaluate potential projects and then provide necessary resources and facilities for the most promising ideas.

“The only requirement is that the new technology must be innovative, clean, and have the potential to be large enough to contribute to the problem of helping to solve climate change,” Gates said, adding that he expects the first projects from the initiative to come online “within about a decade.”

The announcement came as around 150 world leaders and more than 40,000 delegates, observers, and journalists gathered in the French capital for the opening of the most ambitious climate summit on record.

The talks, which are scheduled to conclude Dec. 11, are expected to produce the world’s first global climate agreement including incentives for the world to increasingly shift toward renewable energy production and otherwise reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while producing funding for poor and developing countries to adapt to climate impacts and grow their economies with reduced environmental impacts.

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