Philanthropist Bill Gates says the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will donate $350 million to help small farmers around the world grow crops that will adapt to climate change.
In an interview with VOA from Glasgow where he is attending the U.N. Climate Change Conference, Gates said the money will go to a seed consortium which will help farmers thrive in changing environments.
The interview was edited for brevity and clarity.
Q: Help us visualize the scope of the problem when it comes to climate change. What are we facing and how much should we be concerned?
A: Well, climate change is one of the biggest challenges mankind has ever faced. Year by year, because of these carbon emissions, the climate will be getting hotter and that means, particularly anywhere near the equator, the ability to do outdoor farming or outdoor construction work will become impossible. And so that’ll really destabilize people who live in these tropical zones. And so we have to do two things: we have to stop those emissions, where there’s an ambitious goal to do that by 2050, and then in the meantime we need to help countries adapt to these changing weather conditions, for example, you know, giving them better seeds.
Q: How are we going to know that COP 26 is a success?
A: We’ve deeply engaged the private sector. We’ve identified the need for innovation and how we get every sector working together to drive that innovation. And we’re now paying significant effort to adaptation. And so those three things were not there in Paris. I’m not saying that the commitments here are good enough. We need to see over the next five years the same type of increased engagement on the different issues, you know, better policies, more private sector and more innovation, including the innovation that’s focused on the adaptation.
Q: What else are you referring to in terms of innovation?
A: A number of countries are announcing increased resources, including President Biden. We’re announcing $350 million over the next three years for the seed consortium which is called the CG System. That makes the seeds for all the different countries and the big priority for that money will be seeds that can be even more productive despite the challenge of climate change.
And so overall we expect that an additional billion dollars, including our money, will be committed to that effort. That has the potential to benefit literally hundreds of millions of these smallholder farmers. So probably won’t get the attention it deserves, but probably the biggest move for adaptation using innovation for that will be announced here.
Q: What are your thoughts on the impact of climate change in underdeveloped countries, especially in a region like Africa?
A: Well, as you say, it’s a great injustice. And in fact, my interest in climate change came from seeing that through our agricultural work in Africa the farmers were often having a more difficult time. And so they’re already facing these difficulties, which will get significantly worse between now and the end of the century. And so I studied the issue of climate change and the Gates Foundation took on this adaptation as a big priority. That wasn’t getting much attention. So I joined together with some others to create the ‘Commission on Adaptation’ and we had …a lot of great participation and did a report that highlighted some of these key investments.
Q: What do you think all of us can do to contribute to this global solution in fighting climate change?
A: Well, certainly there are products that have lower emissions…In rich countries, you know, we are starting to have food indications of which kinds of food cause what emissions. And we have more and more electric cars. You know we have the ability to heat your home with what’s called an electric heat pump versus using a hydrocarbon like natural gas to your house. You know I would say that for the individual, political engagement is also important because this is a problem where we have to make near-term investments (and) even some short-term sacrifice to get the long-term benefit of having drastic climate change impacts. And so, educating people that this is very worth doing, particularly getting young people engaged.