In Brief
  • Headed by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, the Breakthrough Energy Ventures fund will focus on research and technology dedicated to lowering greenhouse-gas emissions.
  • With a board of directors that has an estimated net worth of nearly $170 billion, the BEV is well-funded and poised to make a big impact in the world of clean energy.

High-Profile Investors

While U.S. President-elect Donald Trump is busy filling his presidential cabinet with climate-change deniers and fossil fuel execs, high-profile environmental advocates are responding by investing in a $1 billion clean energy fund with a 20-year duration.

The Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV) fund will focus on research and technology dedicated to lowering greenhouse-gas emissions in areas such as electricity generation, storage, transportation, industrial processes, and agriculture. That focus may be pretty broad, but given the amount of money and attention investors plan to put into the project, we can certainly be hopeful that the climate change action plan will be bolstered by significant technological innovation in the future.

The people behind the BRV fund have the capital to make real change happen — Quartz estimates the total net worth of the BEV directors to be nearly $170 billion. Joining Microsoft-founder Bill Gates at BEV are Alibaba founder Jack Ma, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Softbank’s Masayoshi Son, Virgin Group’s Richard Branson, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, and tech investors John Doerr and Vinod Khosla, and many others.

Temperature data from four international science institutions. Data sources: NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, NOAA National Climatic Data Center, Met Office Hadley Centre/Climatic Research Unit and the Japanese Meteorological Agency. Image Credit: NASA

Addressing Climate Change

2015 holds the distinction of having the highest annual surface temperature on record. Ocean temperatures also broke records last year, with the eastern Pacific 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than the longterm average and the Arctic 8 degrees Celsius (14.4 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than the average. Because of thermal expansion and the melting of glaciers, 2015 set the record for highest global sea level, as well. As 2016 winds to a close, it looks like this year’s statistics are poised to overtake last year’s numbers.

Multiple scientific institutions have issued public statements pointing to human activity as the primary driver of climate change. Though it faces a new White House administration that has shown outright skepticism on the realities of climate change in the past, the BEV fund is ready to tackle the challenge head on.

“The dialogue with the new administration as it comes in about how they see energy research will be important,” Gates said in an interview with Quartz. “The general idea that research is a good deal fortunately is not a partisan thing.”

Gates adds that the success of this venture goes beyond funding, significant though it may be, and shared that he will be working personally to engage more partners that can support this vision. If his impact on helping the environment is anything like the mark he made on the world of technology, we should be in capable hands.