WASHINGTON – Former President Bill Clinton (search) convinced world and business leaders to commit more than $1.25 billion to address major global problems, ranging from poverty to clean energy.
The question is, will they follow through?
In his closing remarks Saturday the first annual Clinton Global Initiative (search), he promised progress reports on the more than 190 initiatives.
Clinton told participants — including heads of state and business leaders — to remember the impact their work can have on future generations, saying "we are so arrogant because we are obsessed with the present."
The three-day event, which coincided with a world summit at the United Nations, included a series of workshops on topics including religious conflict, poverty and the environment.
At a Saturday session, former Vice President Al Gore (search) said Hurricane Katrina should serve as a warning that the world must not ignore the consequences of global warming.
"We face a global emergency, a deepening climate crisis that requires us to act," Gore said.
Scientists are split over whether a manmade change in world climate is fueling stronger storms.
At least one recent study suggested that a rise in the surface temperature of tropical seas may be responsible for an increase in the severity of hurricanes. But many say the temperature rise is a natural environmental cycle.
The price of admission was $15,000, and participants were required to commit to some sort of action to help solve a major global problem. If they don't follow through, they won't be invited back to what organizers intend to make an annual event.
The pledges secured at the conference included a $300 million commitment from Swiss Re, a reinsurance and financial services organization, to start an investment fund for promoting clean energy in Europe.
Other major contributors were Sir Tom Hunter, a Scottish entrepreneur who pledged $100 million to fight poverty in the Third World, and Mohamed Ibrahim, a businessman from Sudan who said he would give $100 million for an investment fund for African businesses.