The year 2016 was a big one in the fight against climate change. That year, two highly influential groups each launched a $1 billion fund to accelerate our transition to clean energy.
The first, the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI), united 10 oil companies from around the world with the goal of investing $1 billion in “innovative low-emissions technologies” over the next 10 years. The second, Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV), was created by Bill Gates with support from a billionaires’ club including Reliance Industries’ Mukesh Ambani, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Virgin’s Richard Branson, Alibaba’s Jack Ma, and SoftBank’s Masayoshi Son.
Two years on, Gates’s initiative has been widely celebrated. The oil companies’ group, by contrast, is primarily criticized or ignored altogether. That makes some level of intuitive sense: Why should we believe the oil companies, which denied climate change for decades, really want to do good?
But if we’re going to beat climate change, we need to learn to question our instinctive reactions—and maybe even learn to look beyond Big Oil’s sordid past.