COP26 updates: Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy, Gates Foundation and Amazon tout climate efforts

Students protest at an event in San Francisco to raise awareness about climate change. (Li-An Lim Photo via Unsplash)

Day two of the United Nations COP26 climate talks brought news of recently forged partnerships and new funding commitments from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

On Tuesday, the Microsoft co-founder took the stage in Glasgow to announce a pledge of $315 million from the foundation to support agricultural research to help farmers in the developing world cope with climate change, as well as an update on the progress being made through his Breakthrough Energy initiative.

COP26 is seen as a crucial moment in combating the climate crisis. More than 130 heads of state and government as well as thousands of diplomats are attending the two-week event. The meeting in Scotland is a chance for countries to update their commitments to cutting greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to prevent the most dire impacts of a warming world. Scientists warn that time is running out for averting a climate disaster.

Gates shared his news at the COP26 World Leaders Summit Accelerating Clean Technology Innovation and Deployment event.

One of my top priorities here at #COP26 is making sure that the world prioritizes scaling clean technology innovation. Here is the message I delivered to world leaders earlier today:

— Bill Gates (@BillGates) November 2, 2021

The foundation’s funding will go to the CGIAR global agriculture research partnership, bringing the total sum committed to the organization to more than $1 billion.

Gates’ Breakthrough Energy runs multiple programs, including an investment initiative called Breakthrough Energy Ventures that has raised more than $2 billion and made investments in 80 companies across 11 countries.

Its Catalyst program is building partnerships among the public and private sector to lower the cost of decarbonizing technologies and accelerate their adoption and deployment. Catalyst has secured $1.5 billion from its private partners to invest in new technologies, and Gates said on Tuesday that the effort expects to “leverage more than 10 times that much in total public and private financing.”

The program’s public partners include the United Kingdom and U.S. Department of Energy, with private supporters including Microsoft, American Airlines, Bank of America, GM, Citi Bank and others.

Catalyst is also engaging with international initiatives including Mission Innovation, a cohort of 22 countries and the European Commission working to develop low-carbon technologies, and it’s part of a Memorandum of Understanding with the European Commission and European Investment Bank to invest up to $1 billion by 2026 in innovative technologies.

“Together, we must build a green industrial revolution — one that stops climate change, protects vulnerable communities, and puts the world on a path to progress,” Gates said in his speech at COP26.

For many years, Gates has been focused on global health through the Seattle-based foundation that he co-runs with his now ex-wife Melinda French Gates. Gates officially launched Breakthrough Energy Ventures in 2016, and his engagement in climate issues has been scaling up ever since. That has included an expansion of the effort to the Breakthrough Energy umbrella organization and the publication of his climate book earlier this year.

Amazon and Bezos

On Monday, fellow Pacific Northwest tech titan Jeff Bezos announced new developments for his $10 billion Bezos Earth Fund. The Amazon founder will also be speaking at the global summit.

Day Two of #COP26 is underway as @JeffBezos and others prepare to speak at the World Leaders Summit.

— Bezos Earth Fund (@BezosEarthFund) November 2, 2021

Bezos recently handed Amazon leadership over to Andy Jassy, who had his own role to play at COP26.

Amazon is the private-sector anchor coalition for a global effort called LEAF (Lowering Emissions by Accelerating Forest Finance) that launched in April. On Tuesday, LEAF announced that it has $1 billion of financing available for countries and states that pledge to protect tropical and subtropical forests, which hold massive volumes of carbon. The organization says that it is “on track to become one of the largest-ever public-private efforts to protect tropical forests.”

Costa Rica, Ecuador, Ghana, Nepal and Vietnam are the first nations that will receive payments through the carbon offsets program.

“I am proud of Amazon’s work over the past six months with the governments of Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States, and a growing number of other leading companies, to spearhead this important initiative and mobilize $1 billion to fight tropical deforestation,” said Jassy in a statement issued Tuesday.

Seattle mayor’s efforts

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan is also at the COP26 event. On Monday she announced an executive order with a slate of initiatives to cut the city’s carbon emissions. They include a proposal for new energy-efficient building standards, cutting the use of fossil fuels in city-owned buildings by 2035, free transit for students, and creating programs to encourage a shift to electrification for residents, businesses and governments.

“From a new normal of smoky summers and dangerous heat in Seattle, I have never seen the impacts of climate change that we are now facing,” said Durkan in a statement. “We’ve invested billions to support green transportation, efficient buildings, and other policies to mitigate climate change, but we know we need to do more to reach net zero.”

Amazon Bill gates Breakthrough energy Climate change Climate tech