Bill Gates has spoken out against the global push for divestment in fossil fuels, suggesting environmentalists have been making false claims as to the power of renewable energy investment alone. Gates has criticised the global focus on divestment, as a sole strategy in combating carbon emissions, as an insufficient approach to transforming the fossil fuel industry.
In an interview with The Atlantic, Gates expressed his concern for the investments of pension funds, universities, churches and local governments, stating that we are misled to “think divestment alone is a solution, I worry you’re taking whatever desire people have to solve this problem… using their idealism and energy on a solution that won’t emit less carbon.”
Gates went on to stress that other measures were necessary to combat carbon emissions successfully, such as carbon taxes and more government regulation of the industry.
Criticising investors “idealism” and over-reliance on fossil fuel divestment to combat carbon reduction, Gates argued that these measures alone “won’t emit less carbon”.
What Does Bill Gates Have To Lose?
Bill Gates’ claims have faced strong backlash from environmentalists the world over, arguing that his statements have discouraged divestment in fossil fuels in general.
Environmental campaigner at NGO 360.org, Time Ratcliffe, emphasised that “no one claims divestment alone will solve the climate crisis, but… we won’t get anywhere unless we weaken the political power of the fossil fuel industry.”
“You simply cannot continue to invest in companies that are planning to burn five times more coal, oil and gas that our climate can take” he added.
Added scepticism has been expressed surrounding Gates’ vested interests in the fossil fuel industry, a sector where the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has invested $1.4 billion.
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The 2013 tax findings come in spite of the foundations’ past statements that climate change is so serious that immediate action is needed.
Gates has reported financial ties to many fossil fuel giants including BP, the company responsible for the Deepwater Horizon disaster in Mexico and Brazilian mining company Vale, a company voted as having the “most contempt for the environment and human rights” in Public Eye annual awards.
These findings have put the multi-billion dollar foundation under sever pressure to divest their investments in the fossil fuel industry. A campaign launched this year by The Guardian has written to the Gates corporation suggesting that the “corporation has made a huge contribution to human progress… yet investments in fossil fuels are putting this progress at great risk”.
“It is morally and financially misguided to invest in companies dedicated to finding and burning more oil, gas and coal” said a statement from the campaign.
A Billion Dollar Finger In Every Pie
Gates’ strong stance against fossil fuel divestment has been linked by many to his vested interests in the success of the industry. However the billionaire’s influence appears to be tied to both sides of the argument around energy production and climate action.
As well as upwards of $1 billion invested in fossil fuels, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has also announced plans to incest up to $2 billion in breakthrough renewable energy projects to be rolled out in the next five years.
Describing his renewable energy investments as an attempt to “bend the curve” in combating climate change, fossil fuel critics have pointed out the contradictions in the foundation’s refusal to divest in fossil fuel companies that are currently breaking international climate action agreements.
Gates has defended his decision to reject divestment by maintaining the ineffectiveness of divestment, and promoting his moves towards “high risk” technological investments as a more effective form of climate action.
Photo courtesy of Mohammad Jangda