Bill Gates says he hasn't given up his fortune to fight climate change because 'innovation is not just a check-writing process'

Bill Gates onstage in front of a black background.
Bill Gates.Michael Loccisano/Getty Images
  • Bill Gates discussed climate tech and the climate-focused Inflation Reduction Act on a podcast.

  • Gates said he hadn't donated his fortune because "innovation is not just a check-writing process."

  • He said real progress required involvement from governments and development of talent and expertise.

Bill Gates, currently the fifth-richest person on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, told Bloomberg on Thursday why he hadn't donated his vast fortune to fight the climate crisis as fellow billionaires announce splashy contributions toward their own pet causes.

"Well, innovation is not just a check-writing process — the cost is way greater than what anyone could fund," he told the Bloomberg Green reporter Akshat Rathi.

On the latest episode of Bloomberg's "Zero" podcast, Rathi interviewed Gates about climate tech and the Inflation Reduction Act — the law enacted in August that invests $369 billion toward trying to reduce US carbon emissions by 40% over the next eight years.

The billionaire philanthropist founded the organization Breakthrough Energy in 2015 to invest in clean-energy technologies and was instrumental to the legislation's passage behind the scenes, Bloomberg reports. The hands-on approach differs from recent charitable donations of other billionaires, a practice Gates argues is less effective.

"You've also said that we need to do everything we can to accelerate innovation," Rathi asked Gates on Thursday's podcast. "What's stopping you from giving away all your money to innovation right now?"

In response, Gates brought up TerraPower, a nuclear-reactor-design company he founded in 2015.

"I put about a billion dollars into that," he said. "But my key value-add was finding the basic idea for much safer, cheaper, low-waste solutions and bringing those brilliant people together on the software-modeling skills."

Gates also pointed to the Inflation Reduction Act as a second example of how climate-tech innovation was "not just purely a financial thing."

"I was personally involved in a lot of what got written into it, and then working with the key senators in the last month to get it to pass — that's far greater than any individual fortune," he said. "And I'm orchestrating a lot of people."

Later in the interview, Gates also argued that actively pursuing cleaner technology had the added benefit of driving positive change without relying on politically unpopular regulations meant to impose costs for polluting.

"Just having a few rich countries, a few rich companies, and a few rich individuals buy their way out so they can say they're not part of the problem, that has nothing to do with solving the problem," he told Bloomberg. "Solving the problem is finding innovators building these innovative companies."

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