Billionaires have tons of money to throw around, and they do, for causes both good and bad. The Koch brothers, for instance, like throwing their money behind right-wing politicians that want to roll back, or eliminate, environmental rules and regulations (if not just plain get rid of the EPA). Others, though, like putting their money behind better initiatives. Bill Gates and other billionaires are getting ready to spend some of their billions on the world’s largest clean energy initiative, just in time for the big climate conference in Paris.
This is being described as “the biggest clean energy commitment in history,” according to Bloomberg, and may provide a boost to the Paris climate talks. Back in July, Gates wrote a blog post about this, where he said:
“If we create the right environment for innovation, we can accelerate the pace of progress, develop and deploy new solutions, and eventually provide everyone with reliable, affordable energy that is carbon free. We can avoid the worst climate-change scenarios while also lifting people out of poverty, growing food more efficiently, and saving lives by reducing pollution.”
Gates and other wealthy philanthropists want to work with the U.S., India, and 10 other nations on their own funding for clean energy research. This is fantastic, and has the strong potential to be a worldwide game changer. These people want to focus on storage technology–particularly batteries–since renewable energy collection and distribution is dependent on the weather. Gates himself is also worried about what’s known as “energy poverty” in countries like India, where millions don’t even have access to basic electricity. Funneling billions to just these two things can improve a lot throughout the world, not just climate-wise, but economically as well.
Will something like this help us get a climate agreement through Congress, though? Congress is probably one of the biggest obstacles there is to something like this. It’s full of Republicans who are climate-science deniers, and want to either derail (or eliminate) the EPA, and let the so-called “free market” handle the situation (it won’t). Leaders are hoping to craft a binding agreement, but Congress has to approve that, and they won’t if it means cutting fossil fuel use.
Despite that, Jennifer Morgan, the global director for the World Resources Institute, says:
“[This commitment] is quite a big deal. It brings a new kind of burst of energy into the conference right at the beginning on something very important.”
That’s especially important because this agreement would bind even the world’s poorer nations, who are currently a sticking point in the negotiations. They can’t afford to put a lot of money into clean energy research because they literally don’t have it. Obama knows that, and wrote on his Facebook page that the U.S., along with other wealthy nations, will work to “mobilize support to help the most vulnerable countries expand clean energy and adapt to the effects of climate change we can no longer avoid.”
Here at home, Congressional Republicans are already working on a series of votes to fight whatever agreement comes out of Paris, because of course. Senators James “Snowball” Inhofe (R-OK) and John Barrasso (R-WY) sent a letter to Obama saying the following:
“Our constituents are worried that the pledges you are committing the United States to will strengthen foreign economies at the expense of American workers. They are also skeptical about sending billions of their hard-earned dollars to government officials from developing nations.”
35 other senators signed that letter. Besides that, more than half the states are suing the Obama administration over whether Obama’s current climate plan is even legal. Every GOP presidential candidate has pledged to undo climate regulations if they’re elected. Their attitude seems to be that we should take care of our own first, but the GOP blocks bills that would help us take care of our own, making them some of the most hypocritical people imaginable.
In other words, because Republicans control so much, the world faces an uphill battle just to get our Congress to ratify a binding agreement.
In fact, it’s so bad, and the world is so irritated with the GOP, that leaders were trying to come up with a way to craft a binding agreement that doesn’t have to go through Congress earlier this year. They just flat-out don’t want to deal with Republicans, but they know this agreement won’t work if it doesn’t bind the U.S. Congress, in response, will block funding if this agreement isn’t sent to them for approval.
It’s not clear right now whether the funding from Gates and friends, or their focus, will help get any agreement through Congress. That won’t be clear until the actual agreement is hammered out. However, since it’s private funding that would significantly boost public funding, it has the potential to change the way we fight climate change, and thus, the whole world.