The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation released its annual letter Monday, announcing “the climate crisis and gender equality” have emerged as priorities for their future philanthropic giving.
Alternating writing in the first person, Bill and Melinda Gates describe some of their experiences over the past twenty years while also underscoring their new priorities. For Bill, a key new priority is combating climate change while also looking to provide the world with reliable access to electricity.
“Tackling climate change is going to demand historic levels of global cooperation, unprecedented amounts of innovation in nearly every sector of the economy, widespread deployment of today’s clean-energy solutions like solar and wind, and a concerted effort to work with the people who are most vulnerable to a warmer world,” Gates writes.
While holding up the Paris Agreement and climate activism like last fall’s climate strikes as examples of positive developments, Bill says he is focusing on “mitigation and adaptation.”
“When people talk about solving climate change, they usually focus on reducing emissions — which is a good thing!” Bill writes. “We need zero-carbon alternatives in every sector of the economy, many of which don’t exist yet. Mitigation is, by far, the biggest challenge we need to figure out, and it’s great to see so much energy being put into how to zero out emissions.”
“Climate change is one of the most difficult challenges the world has ever taken on,” he asserts. “But I believe we can avoid a climate catastrophe if we take steps now to reduce emissions and find ways to adapt to a warmer world.”
For her part, Melinda says she wants to focus efforts particularly on gender equality, including reproductive rights.
Citing the 25th anniversary of the Beijing World Conference on Women and quoting Hillary Clinton — “Human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights” — Melinda writes that the data is unequivocal: “No matter where in the world you are born, your life will be harder if you are born a girl.”
“The reason the pace of progress for women and girls has been so glacial is no mystery,” she writes. “It’s the direct result of the fact that — despite the valiant efforts of activists, advocates, and feminist movements — the world has refused to make gender equality a priority.”
Her goals extend from “fast-tracking women in leadership positions in critical sectors like government, technology, finance, and health” to bringing down “the barriers that women of all backgrounds encounter in their everyday lives.”
“My journey as a public advocate began with family planning,” Melinda writes. “There are over 200 million women in developing countries who do not want to get pregnant but are not using modern contraceptives.”
Since then, she said her foundation has stepped up “our commitments to family planning” while also developing “strategies that prioritize gender equality.”
According to Edward Pentin of the National Catholic Register, the Vatican has been “drawing closer” to the Gates Foundation and last November, Pope Francis received Melinda Gates in an unpublicized private audience.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation currently has some $47 billion in its endowment, including funds from Gates’ friend Warren Buffett, and has granted more than $50 billion.