Bill Gates pledges $1.5 billion to climate projects in the infrastructure bill

The $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill — which still needs to be passed by the House — has more than $100 billion dedicated to addressing climate change, from sweeping programs that address extreme weather to electric school buses.
Part of this is $25 billion in funding to the DOE for demonstration projects via public-private partnerships, which will include Breakthrough Energy Catalyst. The Wall Street Journal first reported the donations.

Breakthrough Energy’s Catalyst program hopes to accumulate up to $15 billion to fund “climate smart technologies” through public and private financing across different industries. Gates has frequently stated the ultimate goal is to reach a net-zero carbon emission economy by 2050.

The DOE-sponsored projects that Catalyst will help to fast track include sustainable aviation fuel and green hydrogen, which could provide power without fossil fuels. Other projects direct air capture, which would capture carbon dioxide straight from the atmosphere, and long-duration energy storage.

“Avoiding a climate disaster will require a new industrial revolution. We need to make the technologies and products that don’t cause emissions as cheap as those that do, reducing what I call Green Premiums, so the whole world can afford them and reach our climate goals,” Gates said in a statement, adding that a public-private partnership will speed up the deployment of these technologies.

Scott Sklar, the energy director of George Washington University’s Environment & Energy Management Institute, said that though public-private partnerships for the climate were ongoing and common, he hasn’t seen one of this scale.

“Gates is gambling a little bit,” Sklar said. “As many leaders are saying, we need to accelerate technology adoption if we’re going to meet some of these climate goals and it’s going to take some risks.”

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Jonah Goldman, the managing director for Breakthrough Energy, said that the partnership allows flexibility on both sides to scale large, complex solutions to carbon-free emissions.

“There’s nothing binary about climate, the solution is completely reinstituting a foundation for our modern lifestyle,” Goldman said.

Gates has collaborated with the public sector before. In June, Breakthrough Energy Catalyst and the European Commission announced a partnership to boost investments in critical climate technologies that will enable a net-zero economy.

— CNN’s Katie Lobosco and Tami Luhby contributed to this report.

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