Fossil fuel divestment is a waste of time. At least, according to liberal billionaire and philanthropist Bill Gates.
While it may come as a shock to climate activists who claim to refuse to invest in oil and coal will help the planet, the Microsoft co-founder disagreed. Gates told Financial Times, “Divestment, to date, probably has reduced about zero tonnes of emissions.”
“It’s not like you’ve capital-starved [the] people making steel and gasoline,” he said. “I don’t know the mechanism of action where divestment [keeps] emissions [from] going up every year. I’m just too damn numeric.”
Gates argued that investors who want to reduce emissions would be better off funding “disruptive technologies that slow carbon emissions and help people adapt,” FT wrote on Sept. 17. He cited his own backing of disruptive companies, a list that included Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, as an example of causing change.
“When I’m taking billions of dollars and creating breakthrough energy ventures and funding only companies who, if they’re successful, reduce greenhouse gases by 0.5 percent, then I actually do see a cause and effect type thing,” Gates added.
This wasn’t the first time Gates criticized fossil fuel divestment. In 2015, The Guardian reported Gates’ opposition to the divestment movement’s “theory of change,” and called it a “false solution.”
“If you think divestment alone is a solution, I worry you’re taking whatever desire people have to solve this problem and kind of using up their idealism and energy on something that won’t emit less carbon – because only a few people in society are the owners of the equity of coal or oil companies,” he said. “As long as there’s no carbon tax and that stuff is legal, everybody should be able to drive around.”
In 2019, Gates was one of several CEOs who criticized Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ (D-NY) Green New Deal resolution. He said it was “not realistic.”