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Branson Pledges Three Billion Dollars To Develop Cleaner Energy

Former US President Bill Clinton (L) and Sir Richard Branson hold a signed committment letter after Branson announced that he would invest about some three billion USD to combat global warming at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting in New York on 21 September 2006. Photo courtesy of Nicholas Roberts and AFP.
by Staff Writers
New York (AFP) Sep 21, 2006
British mogul Richard Branson pledged Thursday to spend three billion dollars in the next 10 years on a variety of projects to combat global warming and reduce dependence on fossil fuels. The founder of the Virgin Group of companies made the announcement in New York at the Clinton Global Initiative headed by former US president Bill Clinton and aimed at tackling key global problems.

"We have to limit our dependence on fossil fuels," said Branson. "We hope that this contribution will help in some small way to enable our children to enjoy this beautiful world."

Branson said Virgin Group will invest all future profits from its airline and train businesses into renewable energy initiatives within the company and in other investments in new biofuel research and other projects to tackle emissions related to global warming.

Branson and his company "believe that all businesses, especially those involved in transportation, energy, and particularly fossil fuels such as coal, must be at the forefront of developing environmentally-friendly business strategies with a focus on replacing traditional energy with energy coming from renewable sources," a Virgin Group statement said.

To demonstrate the commitment, the company said that all "dividends, realizations and share sales" from Virgin's transportation interests "will be invested into renewable energy initiatives ... to tackle emissions related to global warming."

"We currently estimate this commitment to be three billion dollars over the next 10 years."

Virgin said the initiative would take the form of investment in new fuel technologies through an investment unit called Virgin Fuels, for which Branson's group has pledged 400 million dollars in the next three years.

The first investment project of Virgin Fuels will be in a California company called Cilion doing research on new kinds of ethanol production. Further investments over the next three years will be made in Europe and other parts of the world, the company said.

"Virgin has always worked hard to minimize our environmental impact at every level of our businesses -- from operating the youngest fleet of aircraft of an airline flying anywhere in the world today, and the latest fuel-efficient Airbus 340 and Boeing 737 aircraft in our airlines, down to printing double-sided on recycled paper and using fair-trade coffee in our offices," the company said.

Branson was recently ranked by Forbes magazine as the 245th richest person in the world, with a net worth of 2.8 billion dollars.

He made his initial fortune in the record industry and heads the Virgin Atlantic airline, but he has also launched a string of other companies in sectors such as railways, mobile phones, Internet access and soft drinks.

The Clinton Global Initiative, which is focused on climate change, global health, easing religious and ethnic conflict and reducing poverty, said it had raised a total of 5.7 billion dollars this year, including the pledge from Branson.

"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 in a statement.

Source: Agence France-Presse

Related Links
Clinton Global Initiative
Powering The World in the 21st Century
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OPEC Urges Use Of Technology To Reduce Carbon Emissions
Riyadh (AFP) Sep 21, 2006
OPEC called Thursday for the use of advanced technology that reduces carbon dioxide emissions to ensure a cleaner environment and the safe use of oil and natural gas to foster global development. "There is a need to focus on technological options that allow the continued use of oil in a carbon-constrained world," OPEC director of research Hasan Qabazard told an EU-OPEC roundtable meeting in Riyadh.

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