Interview: Bill Gates says innovation key to tackling carbon emissions, cites China's contributions

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, February 15, 2021
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by Xinhua writers Xu Xingtang, Zhang Mocheng

NEW YORK, Feb. 15 (Xinhua) -- Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has said innovation is key to tackling carbon emissions, and praised China for its efforts to make green energy more affordable.

Gates, also co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is going to publish his new book titled "How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need" on Tuesday. In the book he suggests concrete steps individuals, governments and companies can take to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions.

In a recent exclusive interview with Xinhua, Gates expressed hope that by bringing out a book of the kind, he could help the world come up with a plan that involves a lot of innovation, a lot of cooperation between countries, and a lot of very innovative policies.

Sources of emissions are so broad that the entire physical economy is going to need to change, Gates said, adding that people who think it is easy and people who think it is impossible are both wrong.


During the interview, Gates cited many sources of emissions like steel and cement factories, and the way people grow rice, make fertilizer and raise livestock, to argue that the world cannot skip over any of these to reach zero emissions.

"To solve these problems, innovation is a key," he said, noting that governments should be encouraged to invest more than what they have done. "We're all looking forward to Glasgow in November, and we hope to see a lot more discussion about the innovative tools," he said.

Citing General Motors's plan to stop making gasoline-powered passenger cars by 2035 and the large number of innovators in China, he noted electric vehicles will absolutely have a future, even though it is only a modest percentage of car sales today.

Everyone is projecting the industry to grow quite a bit, he said, partly because the products will get better and the extra upfront cost will come down as well. Mentioning many lessons from the electric vehicle industry, he said that better results may be achieved if a lot of those subsidies are shifted into these more difficult areas.

Among the new energy categories, Gates said he favors nuclear power most, which enjoys advantages in transmission and reliability. As nuclear plants are becoming safer and cheaper, he noted, it could have a role to play, because it is always available, no matter what the weather.

He said no doubt wind and solar will be a gigantic part of the future electricity generation, but unless there is a miracle of storage, sources like nuclear that do not depend on the wind or sun are necessary.

"Having super safe nuclear reactors to help solve climate change would be a fantastic thing for the entire world," Gates said.


Gates told Xinhua that though it is the early stage of climate change, if temperature continues to rise between now and the end of the century, there is to be a climate disaster that not only destroys many ecosystems, but leads to deaths every year five times those from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gates said he is still optimistic about avoiding the climate disaster, though it will be a hard problem to solve. He referred to his successful experiences in personal computing and the internet, and the global health work with incredible progress in reducing childhood deaths and proving treatment of tuberculosis, as well as great ambitions for eradicating polio and malaria.

"I've had great luck in the ambitious things I've chosen to do, and as I look at this problem, I see that it's even harder than anything I've worked on," he said, adding that thanks to the commitment of educated people, progress has been made on some categories of emissions such as solar power and electric cars.

However, people are not paying enough attention to industries that are much harder to turn green, he said, like cement, steel, land use, beef and aviation fuel, largely because the price difference for the green version, which is called the green premium.

Usually when there is a big crisis, he said, people tend to think more of the short term rather than worrying about long-term problems such as climate change. It is surprising that young people's interest is actually greater today than at any time, which is a really good thing.

Although the pandemic is a great tragedy and a huge setback to the economy, Gates said, once the world comes out of it, it will start again to build that pathway towards zero emissions, and governments will still be financially able to help avoid climate disasters. It is exciting that many new investments by governments are climate-related, he said.


"It's great that President Xi is making climate a priority and wants to work with other countries on this," said Gates during the interview.

China aims to have CO2 emissions peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060, said Chinese President Xi Jinping in September 2020 at the general debate of the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly via video.

"Without the contributions of China, many of the key ingredients (in fighting climate change) like the batteries and solar power wouldn't be so affordable," Gates said.

China and some other countries have reduced the cost of solar power and electric cars, driving prices down to facilitate worldwide adoption, he said, noting that electric buses are becoming the norm in many Chinese cities.

China is also doing a lot to build up its electricity grid to use more renewable energy, Gates added. "I hope that innovators in China can bring down the cost of green energy enough, so that China can even increase its commitment to use renewable energy in the Belt and Road Initiative."

Speaking of innovation, the U.S. billionaire philanthropist said basic R&D is a huge area for cooperation, calling upon China and the United States, the world's two largest economies, to work together to promote R&D and help reduce the green premium for the entire world.

Climate change and innovation are the areas that China and the United States could achieve big win-win results, Gates said.

"Both countries are caring a lot about these two issues," he said. "Both countries have amazing smart people in the younger generation that would be proud to be part of this." Enditem

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