British business mogul Richard Branson today pledged to invest about 3$bn (€2.34m) over the next decade to combat global warming and promote alternative energy, saying that it was critical to protect the environment for the sake of future generations.
Branson, the billionaire behind the multi-platform Virgin brand, said the money would come from 100% of the profits generated by his transportation and airline sectors. It will then be invested in efforts to find renewable, sustainable energy sources in an effort to wean the world off oil and coal.
The so-called “rebel billionaire” – wearing a dress coat with no tie and denim pants – made the announcement in Manhattan on the second day of the Clinton Global Initiative, an annual conference of business, political and non-profit leaders hosted by former President Bill Clinton.
“Our generation has inherited an incredibly beautiful world from our parents and they from their parents,” Branson told reporters, with Clinton at his side.
“We must not be the generation responsible for irreversibly damaging the environment. We must hand it over to our children in as near pristine a condition as we were lent it from our parents.”
Clinton praised Branson, calling him one of the “most interesting,” “creative” and “genuinely committed” people he had ever known.
Branson said he was inspired to contribute after a meeting with Al Gore, who served as Clinton’s vice president and has been highly visible in raising awareness about global warming and environmental issues. Gore was scheduled to speak this afternoon.
Branson’s commitment assured that the Clinton Global Initiative conference would surpass its goal of matching last year’s efforts.
About 50 current and former world leaders were expected to attend the summit, which is in its second year.
This morning, Afghan President Hamid Karzai joined Jordanian Queen Rania Al-Abdullah, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu for a panel discussion on managing diversity in a globalised world.
All stressed the importance of cultural exchange and education.
Karzai said the West had, at times, exhibited a “lack of morality when it applies to dealing with the rest of the world” because it often did not realise how its intervention or lack thereof would affect itself.
He noted that he had urged Western governments for years before the September 11 attacks to help the people of Afghanistan. “But no attention was paid because you in the West were not hurt,” Karzai said.
“It was only us and that didn’t matter, and that is wrong. Seriously.”
Asked about the furore caused by Pope Benedict XVI’s recent speech that quoted a medieval figure referring to Islam as violent, Tutu stressed the commonalities among all religions, but added: “I think that the pope probably wishes he hadn’t said what he said and has tried to apologise. But it shows how very difficult it is to say sorry. ... To say sorry in public is one of the most difficult things.”
The initiative began on Wednesday with a slew of world figures, from first lady Laura Bush unveiling a plan to bring clean drinking water to Africa and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf stressing the importance of Palestinian peace.
The conference brings together government, business and non-profit sectors in an effort to spur action on poverty, healthcare, global warming and religious/ethnic conflict.