Bill Gates Calls for Climate Action Focused on Agriculture

As the United Nations' new $10 billion Green Climate Fund prepares to award its initial round of grants, Bill Gates is urging the fund to rethink its priorities and focus on the 1.5 billion people in poor farming communities who face some of the greatest risks from climate change, the Financial Times reports.

An operating entity of the financial mechanism of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, GCF will split the funds pledged by wealthy countries between climate adaptation efforts and projects aimed at reducing carbon emissions. To that end, the fund has shortlisted eight proposals in areas such as water access, disaster risk management, land use management, and energy efficiency. One "mind-blowingly underfunded" area, Gates told the FT, is research aimed at making seeds more productive, heat resistant, and drought tolerant — an area in which the Gates Foundation invests about $100 million a year. Last June, Gates announced that he planned to double his personal investments in green technology, to about $2 billion over the next five years.

The short-listed proposals include a $23.6 million project (59 pages, PDF) to manage climate-induced water shortages in the Maldives. According to Gates, that effort may mean "you're going to have to spend this $23 million again and again and again." In contrast, supporting improvements in seeds for crops cultivated by poor farmers such as cassava and sorghum — not through genetically modified seeds but conventional breeding techniques — would have an enduring global benefit, he suggested. Gates, who has met with GCF staff, also has urged the South Korea-based fund to adopt the "super clear metrics" his foundation uses to assess grant proposals.

GCF executive director Héla Cheikhrouhou told the FT that vulnerable farmers are very much a focus of the fund's work and that agricultural research centers are likely eventually to receive funding. She added that while GCF is still "learning by doing," it does have a rigorous set of criteria for assessing applications.

Pilita Clark. "Bill Gates Calls for Rethink on Climate Change Cash." Financial Times 10/22/2015.