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World News

Bill Gates says ‘humanity has never done anything this hard’ when it comes to tackling climate change


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Bill Gates has told Sky News that when it comes to tackling climate change, “humanity has never done anything this hard”.

The Microsoft founder was speaking from the COP26 Glasgow climate conference where he is announcing $315m (£231m) in new funding to support vulnerable farmers as they adapt to climate change.

The billionaire also said it would be a “huge disappointment” if US Congress does not agree to pass key legislation to tackle global warming, and that securing enduring policies that outlast political shifts is one of his biggest concerns.

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Bill Gates treated climate pic
Image: Bill Gates said China will be an ‘extremely important’ part of efforts to tackle climate change

Mr Gates, who is one of the richest men in the world and who is urging business and governments to do more to finance innovation in green technologies, offered a nuanced assessment of China‘s role, saying: “I do think China wants to be a good citizen on this issue… China will be the source of some innovation… without China being involved, we won’t get there.”

His comments come as world leaders struggle to make meaningful progress at the COP26 summit in Glasgow following a lacklustre meeting of the G20 nations in Rome, which failed to secure specific new net zero carbon emissions targets or agreements on the phase-out of the domestic production of coal.

I asked: “There is currently a degree of gloom in the air in the aftermath of the G20.

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“Many argued that it fell short, and the world is getting further off track rather than closer to being on track to tackling the climate crisis. Do you feel differently?”

Mr Gates said: “Yes I do.

“I wouldn’t say we’re on track, even these increased commitments don’t put us on track, but if I look at where we were six years ago, where the private sector was not being engaged, not providing its expertise and resources, and when we weren’t talking about innovation, and how we were going to make green products cost equal or even less than the products they replace.

“But I wouldn’t understate it. This is a hard problem. Humanity has never done anything this hard.”

I asked: “Geopolitics also is an issue and especially when you look at China, this huge emitter, the biggest in the world, refusing to do more on its carbon targets, what is your assessment of that approach? Doesn’t it undo all of the work that’s happening elsewhere?”

Mr Gates said: “China will be extremely important… without China being involved, we won’t get there.

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“And China will be the source of some innovation, so connecting up the innovation in the rest of the world with China, we’re going to have to do a lot more of that.

“I do think China wants to be a good citizen on this issue, China will be significantly affected.

“And, you know, they are very careful about their promises.

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“Some promises that are made by others may not be fulfilled, but as China’s very careful about their promises, yes, they do need to do more.”

I asked: “Let’s talk about the US. You’ve got a lot of people creating huge amounts of innovation, but Congress itself is really wrangling over passing a bill that contains critical climate change law.

“Isn’t that a big problem? Doesn’t that work against all of the innovation work that’s happening in the private sector?”

He answered: “Well, these two bills, one’s called the infrastructure bill. The other’s a reconciliation bill, if they get passed, contain over $500bn of climate-related financing they get. Yeah. So if they get passed, the US will actually be in a very strong position doing its part.

“If they don’t get past, wow, we’re going to be back to around zero because we need those resources to drive these innovations.”

I asked: “Will America lose its moral authority?”

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Mr Gates said: “It would be a huge disappointment.

“We have a lot of ability to innovate.

“We want some of these new industries to create some of the jobs in the United States, so I’m doing my best to help these bills get passed.”

I asked: “Where are the biggest challenges, what makes you most concerned?

“Well, climate is not a problem that you can work on it, and stop working on it, and then work on it.

“So even as we go through election cycles in various countries, the people who are going to build the new steel plant or the new cement plant or electricity plant, they need the certainty that taking this green approach is going to be the right way to do it.

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“And so having policies that are enduring…that’s a big concern, for me, particularly in the United States.”

I asked: “Young activists like Greta Thunberg and Vanessa Nakate say that climate change and capitalism are so intertwined, that actually we need a brand new system entirely.

“I know it’s a system that has made you very wealthy and very influential, but do you have any sympathy with that sense of anger, that the system needs to change?”

He said: “The idea of incentivizing people to work hard and be innovative, I don’t think we should get rid of that.

“We’ve seen that various forms of capitalism can give you an uplifting of all incomes and drive innovation.

“Do we need to tune capitalism, so there’s more research and development money, there’s the right green policies?

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“Yes, I’d be the first to say that, you know, I’m in there trying to help governments get ahead of these things.

“No one should be arguing for the status quo, but to say that the basic idea of human innovation, which, you know, market-based capitalism taps into, we don’t want to get rid of that either.

“Innovation is something we can do even better on but by building on what works.”

For full coverage of COP26, watch Climate Live on Sky channel 525.

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© Sky News 2021

Written by: Rother Radio News

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