NEW YORK – British billionaire Richard Branson on Thursday committed to spending all the profits from his airline and rail businesses — an estimated $3 billion over the next 10 years — on combating global warming.
The Virgin Group chairman said the money would be spent on renewable energy initiatives within his company and on investments in bio-fuel research, development, production and distribution, as well as projects to tackle emissions contributing to global warming.
"We have to wean ourselves off our dependence on coal and fossil fuels. Our generation has the knowledge, it has the financial resources and as importantly it has the will power to do so," the flamboyant 56-year-old British entrepreneur said.
Branson, who has a knighthood and is known as much for his daredevil stunts as his business, unveiled his plan at a news conference at the Clinton Global Initiative, a summit run by former U.S. President Bill Clinton to combat world problems.
"Richard's commitment is groundbreaking not only because of the price tag — which is phenomenal — but also because of the statement that he is making: clean energy is good for the world and it's good for business," Clinton said.
The pledge comes one day after the Bush administration said it was committing $3 billion to climate technology research and development. Climate experts and members of Congress criticized the administration's plan as long-delayed and inadequate.
Branson, whose Virgin Group consists of over 200 companies worldwide ranging from planes and trains to music and mobile phones and employs more than 25,000 people, said alternatives to conventional oils and coals were urgently needed.
"I really do believe the world is facing a catastrophe and there are scientists who say we are already too late, but I don't believe that is the case. The majority of scientists think we can still do something about it," he said.
Most international experts say emissions of greenhouse gases, mainly from burning fossil fuels in power plants, factories and cars, are the primary cause of a 1.1 F rise in temperatures over the past century.
A dwindling group of scientists say the dominant cause of warming is a natural variation in the climate system, or a gradual rise in the sun's energy output.
"I think it's a very encouraging step. Richard Branson prides himself in being ahead of the field, so I hope it will lead to other people taking note," British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said in New York.