Microsoft founder Bill Gates says a carbon tax in the United States would not be an effective way of confronting climate change.
In an interview with the MIT Technology Review, Gates said the government and private sector should partner together to research more advanced and cleaner forms of energy. But a tax on carbon emissions — a move many Democrats and environmentalists have endorsed, which Gates has spoken about before — will not help the U.S. address climate change, he said.
“Some countries will do a pure carbon tax, and there’s a certain beauty to doing it that way,” he said in the interview. “But the consensus that I think people will reach here in the U.S. will be to focus more on supply side."
Gates has made energy research a priority and worked with 26 other wealthy individuals last year to launch the Breakthrough Energy Coalition to fund clean-energy technology.
In his MIT interview, Gates said he hopes to raise up to $2 billion from “institutional investors” such as universities and corporations, and he said the coalition could be up and running at full speed by this summer.
Earlier this year, he said the world needs an “energy miracle” in order to cut greenhouse gas emissions while expanding energy production around the world. The way that happens, Gates said, is to spend on clean-energy research.
“I’d spend it all on fundamental research,” Gates said in the interview.
“There’s some really exciting materials science problems which, if you solved them, would have benefits far beyond the energy sector, but where you could justify the increased investment just by what it would do to improve energy innovation.”
Gates said major economies, including the U.S., would need to pump money into energy research in order to meet the goals laid out in the international climate deal reached in Paris last year. The agreement’s underlying goal is to put the world on a path to keep warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius.
“If we didn’t have innovation, if you said, 'Hey, science is frozen, we just have today’s technology,' I would be quite pessimistic about the world [avoiding] even ... a 3-degree scenario,” he said.
“The reason I’m optimistic about climate change is because of the potential for innovations where [carbon emissions] equals zero.”