The people providing hope in a post-Trump world of climate denial

Oil giants investing in kite power, Google planning to use 100 per cent renewable energy, Bill Gates heading up green investment fund and a massive surge in fossil fuel divestment are among the positive signs

Ian Johnston
Environment Correspondent
Tuesday 13 December 2016 13:52 GMT

The business world is pressing ahead with the switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy despite the election of climate change denier Donald Trump as the next US President.

Royal Dutch Shell, fellow oil firm Schlumberger and energy giant Eon have announced they will invest in a novel form of wind energy – high-altitude kites.

This comes after Microsoft founder Bill Gates and other leading business tycoons, including Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos and Jack Ma, revealed they had set up a fund worth more than $1bn (about £790m) to invest in clean energy.

And new figures revealed investors are pulling out of fossil fuels at an increasing pace, with funds held by institutions and individuals committed to divestment doubling to $5 trillion.

Google is also planning to run entirely on renewable energy within a year.

Mr Trump has caused alarm by appointing known climate science deniers to key positions in his administration, such as Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Former Texas Governor Rick Perry is also expected to become Energy Secretary, despite once saying he would abolish the Energy Department if he became President.

However Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science, said: “While many of President-Elect Trump’s choices for his incoming team do not inspire great confidence in future federal policy on climate change in the United States, there are many indications that many [US] states, cities and companies will continue to act strongly against emissions of greenhouse gases.

“Renewable energy is growing in many states, including Texas and California, and coal does not have much future with cheaper power available from wind, solar and natural gas.

“Most of America’s top companies recognise the competitive advantages of business practices that are less wasteful, less polluting and more efficient.

“They also know that the economy of the United States will only thrive if there is increased investment in sustainable infrastructure for energy, transport and cities.”

The Financial Times reported that Royal Dutch Shell, Schlumberger and Eon had all taken stakes in renewable energy firm Kite Power Systems as the start-up firm “races for leadership” in the technology.

The system involves two kites blown skyward at speeds of up to 100mph, pulling a tether which drives a turbine. As one falls, the other rises providing a constant supply of power as long as the wind blows.

Scotland’s west coast wind blows almost constantly with fewer than 10 days a year when there is not enough to generate electricity.

Geert van de Wouw, managing director of Shell Technology Ventures, which is investing £5m, told the FT that kite power could be a “game changer” for renewable energy.

“Traditional wind power is less efficient because it requires a lot of steel infrastructure, of which only the tip of the blade is really harnessing energy,” he said.

Wind turbines have, however, made a major difference to the amount of carbon emissions produced by the UK.

A study by Edinburgh University academics found wind farms had prevented the production of nearly 36 million tonnes of greenhouse gases from fossil fuels between 2008 and 2014, the equivalent of taking some 2.3 million cars off the road.

On Monday, it emerged a group of investors with a combined wealth of an estimated $170bn, including Mr Gates, had set up a clean energy fund worth more than $1bn.

Trump comments on Paris Climate deal

Mr Gates said the Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV) fund would invest in “anything that leads to cheap, clean, reliable energy”, according to

In contrast, there is a growing movement to stop investing in fossil fuels – for both ethical and strictly economic reasons.

A report by legal group Arabella Advisors found that the total amount of assets held by companies and other bodies committed to divestment had doubled to $5 trillion over the past 15 months, the AFP news agency reported.

There is growing talk that investors who put money into fossil fuels could face losing it if the world decides it must stop carbon emissions.

“Pension funds and insurance companies now represent the largest sectors committing to divestment, reflecting increased financial and fiduciary risks of holding fossil fuels,” Arabella Advisors said.

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