Alibaba Group Executive Chairman Jack Ma has joined 20 leaders in global philanthropy to launch Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a more than $1 billion fund that will invest in new technologies aimed at reducing greenhouse gases and fighting climate change.
The 20-year fund, which is led by Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates, will target companies at all phases of the investment pipeline and in sectors ranging from electricity generation and transportation to agriculture and energy system efficiency. Breakthrough Energy Ventures seeks to target clean technologies that can help meet growing energy demand, especially from fast-developing regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia.
In a statement, Ma said the initiative would combine innovations in technology with the group’s broad investment expertise to help lessen the world’s dependence on fossil fuels for energy.
“When it comes to energy, people say you cannot make money, meet demand and also benefit the environment,” he said. “But we can, and we will.”
In addition to Ma, investors including Mukesh Ambani, Chairman and Managing Director of Reliance Industries Limited, Virgin Group’s Richard Branson, Hasso Plattner, Co-Founder of SAP SE, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia, venture capitalists Vinod Khosla, John Doerr, Netflix CEO Reid Hastings and Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son have joined with Gates to launch Breakthrough Energy Ventures. Gates brought the group together to form the Breakthrough Energy Coalition last December during the United Nations’ COP21 climate change summit in Paris. The new fund is the first official initiative of the coalition, which is dedicated to finding technologies that combat global warming.
“Together, these investors will build on the powerful foundation of public investment in basic research by building companies that will help deliver the next generation of reliable, affordable, and emissions-free energy to the world,” said Gates in a statement.
The Breakthrough Energy Coalition will piggyback off that public investment, specifically that of Mission Innovation, which is a group of 22 countries including the U.S., Germany and India that also launched during last year’s COP21. Mission Innovation has a similar purpose to the Breakthrough Energy Coalition in that it seeks bolster innovations in energy through government investment in research and development. The coalition sees this double-pronged approach as a way to speed up and increase the scale of promising clean-energy technologies.
Ma has called for public-private partnerships as a way to solve global issues such as climate change before, including during his keynote speech at last year’s COP21. When speaking about the need to reduce carbon emissions, Ma said it should be a joint effort. “It should be government, business leaders, scientists, working together,” he said.
Alibaba Group, the Chinese e-commerce giant that Ma co-founded, has sought out more eco-friendly ways of operating in order to show that seeking profits and protecting the earth are not mutually exclusive. In recent years, the Hangzhou, China-based company has reduced the amount of energy necessary to conduct transactions on its online sales platforms and the power consumed in its data centers.
“I think this is the opportunity,” Ma said in Paris. “Today the technology we have about using as little resources as possible, as little energy as possible to run our operations, becomes our competitive advantage.”