Climate activists who have convinced pension funds to divest from energy stocks as a way of taking a stance on the climate can save their breath, because according to Microsoft founder Bill Gates, they're wasting their time.
Those who are trying to save the world from climate change would be better served by simply investing in companies that are researching disruptive non-carbon energy sources, Gates said (they might also want to consider $MSFT shares).
For example, investors might have better results if they choose to place their money in Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods - or other companies chasing similarly green business models.
Gates suspects that, for all of the money that has been drained out of the energy sector because of the divestment movement, nothing has been done to reduce emissions.
And the divestment movement hasn't been confined to a few fringe groups. In recent years, it has gained real traction; Now the Church of England, an array of pension funds and sovereign wealth funds, and an investment vehicle that manages the wealth of the Rockefeller family.
"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."
During an interview with the FT published Tuesday, Gates questioned the strategy's "theory of change," arguing that it's more effective to support companies trying to fight carbon emissions and disrupt established markets like food and fuel than trying to starve energy giants like ExxonMobil of capital.
"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%, then I actually do see a cause and effect type thing," he said.
Gates is making the media rounds ahead of the UN General Assembly meeting later this month. He and his wife, Melinda, with whom he started the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, released their organization's "Goalkeepers" report on Tuesday. The UN is hoping to fulfill these goals by 2030, the FT said. But Bill and Melinda Gates are trying to convince the world that not enough is being done, and that achieving their goals would be "unrealistic" on the current trajectory.
The Goalkeepers report says the response to climate change can't be limited to reining in emissions, and should instead focus on helping society cope with the changes to the climate that have already happened.
"We’re nowhere near improving fast enough to reach those goals," Gates said.
"It is a terrible injustice that the people who suffer the most are the poorest farmers in the world. They didn’t do anything to cause climate change, but because they rely on rain for their livelihoods, they are at the front lines of coping with it," Gates said.
Gates has also been grappling with some unwanted publicity this week, following reports that he made a $2 million donation to the MIT Media Lab on Jeffrey Epstein's behalf. Gates and his people have denied that the two men had any kind of "business or personal relationship."