* Gates pleads the case for public health
* Health spending would help environment, Gates says
By Bill Rigby
SEATTLE, Jan 24 Bill Gates, the world's richest
man and a leading philanthropist, said on Sunday spending by
rich countries aimed at combating climate change in developing
nations could mean a dangerous cut in aid for health issues.
Gates, the Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) co-founder whose $34
billion foundation is fighting malaria, AIDS, tuberculosis and
other diseases in developing countries, expressed concern about
the amount of spending pledged at December's Copenhagen global
Participants at the meeting agreed to a target of
channeling $100 billion per year to developing countries to
combat climate change by 2020. Gates said that amount
represents more than three quarters of foreign aid currently
given by the richest countries per year.
"I am concerned that some of this money will come from
reducing other categories of foreign aid, especially health,"
Gates wrote in a letter, released late on Sunday, describing
the work of his foundation.
"If just 1 percent of the $100 billion goal came from
vaccine funding, then 700,000 more children could die from
preventable diseases," Gates added.
Taking the focus away from health aid could be bad for the
environment in the long run, said Gates, "because improvements
in health, including voluntary family planning, lead people to
have smaller families, which in turn reduces the strain on the
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which he runs with his
wife Melinda and father William Gates Sr., had an endowment
worth $34 billion as of September. Gates, 54, remains Microsoft
chairman but focuses his attention on his foundation.
Since starting in 1994, the foundation has handed out more
than $21 billion in grants.
Gates said he was worried generally about levels of
government aid from rich countries to poor countries slipping
with tough economic conditions globally.
"Because of budget deficits, there is significant risk that
aid budgets will either be cut or not increase much," Gates
said in his letter.
He singled out Italy for criticism. "Italy was at the low
end of European givers even before the Berlusconi government
came in and cut the aid by over half, making them uniquely
stingy among European donors," Gates said.
According to Forbes magazine, Gates was the richest man in
the world in 2009 with an estimated fortune of $40 billion.
(Editing by Will Dunham)