“Republicans committed to climate action are worth their weight in gold,” Bill Gates, the billionaire climate philanthropist and investor, said Thursday at the Climate Forward event in New York City.

The number of Republicans who believe responding to climate change is a priority “has to be a number that we can grow over time,” Gates said.

That’s because mitigating and adapting to climate change requires sustained investment and support from the public and private sectors, Gates said.

The Inflation Reduction Act, which was full of tax breaks to spur the development of a clean energy economy, passed on entirely party lines in both the House and Senate. No Republican voted for it.

The political divide on Capitol Hill reflects that of the broader public.

More than half, 54%, of Americans believe climate change is a “major threat” to the well-being of the United States, but there are stark differences along party lines, according to polling data from the Pew Research Center. Nearly eight in 10 Democrats, 78%, think climate change is a major threat, up from 58% a decade ago. Only 23% of Republicans think climate change is a major threat, nearly in line with the 22% of Republicans who thought climate change was a major threat a decade ago. The last survey of this data was carried out in March 2022.

The IRA included tax credits aimed at spurring the development of clean hydrogen, long-term energy storage, and technologies to capture and remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, to name a few.

“The IRA is a very dramatic amount of money to advance key technologies, including in areas that most climate scientists don’t talk about,” Gates said, such as industrial processes. “Industrial emissions, if you don’t solve that, the whole thing won’t be solved,” Gates said.

“It’s a fantastic climate bill,” Gates said.

But the longevity of the IRA and these tax credits depends on which party runs Washington DC

“We don’t have much time to keep this thing intact,” Gates said. “Tax credits are not guaranteed to necessarily last the full 10 years, as they can be repealed if political control changes.”

That’s a problem because building and scaling hard technology, which includes heavy equipment, manufacturing and infrastructure-scale solutions, takes time – much longer than a single administration’s tour of Washington DC

“That’s 30 years of investment in steel factories, fertilizer plants and new methods of producing meat,” Gates said. “For the USA to be a role model, we need constant full throttle.”

While Gates stressed the importance of getting Republicans to take climate policy seriously, he also said he doesn’t like to demonize them.

Instead, Gates asks, “Why haven’t we been able to bring more people? And that’s a super important thing,” he said.

When Gates interacts with philanthropists investing in climate action, he encourages those with ties to Republicans to work with them to try to increase their commitment to climate action. “I think this is extremely valuable,” he said.

The ability of the United States to sustain its investments in climate technology will have global implications.

While the majority of global emissions come from middle-income countries, the United States and other wealthy nations must lead the way in developing and reducing the cost of new technologies, Gates said.

Clean technologies must be better and cheaper because that is the only realistic way to scale them in less wealthy countries, Gates said. It is also unrealistic to expect rich countries to pay for the spread of clean technologies to less wealthy countries unless they are better and cheaper than the dirty, outdated way of doing things. The political will is not there.

“Unfortunately, if you try to subsidize it, you end up with many times the foreign aid budget,” Gates said. “The voters won’t come up with that. So innovation is the only way to achieve these goals.”

The question at this point is not whether the globe will overshoot the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, but by how much.

“We are not on track to reach a 1.5 degree limit,” Gates said. And in fact, António Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, said earlier this week that the planet is currently heading toward a temperature increase of 2.8 degrees, or more than 5 degrees Fahrenheit.

Source : www.cnbc.com

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