Sir Richard Branson, a British entrepreneur and billionaire, promised Thursday to spend $3 billion over the next decade to combat global warming. "Our generation has inherited an incredibly beautiful world from our parents and they from their parents," Branson said. "We must not be the generation responsible for irreversibly damaging the environment."
Chairman of the Virgin Group, an entertainment, media and travel giant, Branson made his announcement Thursday at the Clinton Global Initiative conference in New York. Branson said the world is facing a "catastrophe" from global warming, brought on by human emissions of greenhouse gases.
"There are scientists who say we are already too late, but I don't believe that is the case," he said. "The majority of scientists think we can still do something about it."
The 56-year old Branson, who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1999, said he was inspired by former vice president Al Gore to make the commitment.
The money will come from profits from Virgin's transportation and airline businesses and will directed to a division of the company known as Virgin Fuels, Branson said. The new division, which Branson announced last week, will invest in clean fuels and renewable energy.
The pledge comes on the heels of a decision earlier this year by Branson to invest in cellulosic ethanol in a bid to cut Virgin's fuel bill and an investment this summer in two ethanol refineries. The company operates four airlines with almost 100 aircraft. Soaring oil prices have increased the company's fuel bill by more than $1 billion, Branson said.
Former U.S. president Bill Clinton hailed Branson's pledge as "serious money." "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," Clinton said. "Clean energy is good for the world and it's good for business."
Branson's announcement dominated the second day of the Clinton Global Initiative's annual meeting. The initiative, which Clinton launched last year, is a "a non-partisan catalyst for action, bringing together a community of global leaders to devise and implement innovative solutions to global problems." Last year the initiative collected pledges of some $2.5 billion. Clinton said commitments will continue to be made throughout the coming weeks and over the course of this next year.