Bill Gates shares his ‘big hope’ for COP28 as world leaders gather for climate talks

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Bill Gates delivers a speech on Oct. 11, 2023 in Brussels, Belgium.

Thierry Monasse | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Dubai, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES — Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates on Friday shared his “big hope” for this year’s U.N. climate conference and said he was “definitely glass half-full” when it comes to preventing the worst of what the climate crisis has in store.

Speaking as world leaders convened in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates on the second day of the COP28 summit, Gates said he believed there were many encouraging climate solutions but that these projects required the necessary support from policymakers and business leaders.

“Now, we need to take what looks very promising and scale it up, build the pilot plants, prove those out,” Gates told CNBC’s Tania Bryer on Friday. “And that requires government policies, it requires the big corporations to come in and so all these different communities that have to come together, they are represented here.”

COP28 is the United Nations’ biggest and most important annual climate conference. The two-week long summit got underway on Thursday, with more than 160 world leaders expected to attend — alongside an estimated 70,000 delegates.

It is regarded as a pivotal opportunity to accelerate action to address the climate crisis at a time when global temperatures are hitting record highs and extreme weather events are affecting people worldwide.

“You know, I think 70,000 people and it seems like wow, do we need that many? But in fact, a lot of meetings here will be where those companies get the backing and the kind of experience of big companies, the government help and these entrepreneurs are going to come together,” Gates said.

“And so, facilitating the speed of innovation and the speed of the scale up, that’s my big hope for COP28.”

‘Magic of invention and scale-up’

Asked about criticism of conferences such as COP28, given that some feel they are often all talk and no action, Gates defended the platform as a means to help drive progress across the globe.

“The collaboration between those sectors has improved a great deal,” Gates told CNBC.

“We are falling short of our aspirations in many areas and coming and saying, you know, how do we catch up? Can we do better in one area? Which countries are doing particularly well? Are there models from that?”

An attendee checks a smartphone whilst walking past Al Wasl dome in the Blue Zone ahead of the COP28 climate conference at Expo City in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023. More than 70,000 politicians, diplomats, campaigners, financiers and business leaders will fly to Dubai to talk about arresting the world’s slide toward environmental catastrophe.

Hollie Adams | Bloomberg | Getty Images

“It is a super important issue,” he continued. “It’s definitely glass half-full.”

“We haven’t gone as fast as we’d like and yet particularly, if you see in the innovation pavilion, these smaller companies, the ideas cover all the areas of emissions. And there’s hope that many of these clean approaches given time won’t cost extra,” Gates added.

The billionaire philanthropist said the costs of solar electricity and EV batteries have come down.

“And so, that same magic of invention and scale up, if we apply that broadly … I have hope that despite these delays and incredible complexity that the message coming out of these meetings does help drive progress,” Gates said.