Branson pledges $3B to fight global warming
Billionaire mogul says 100 percent of future proceeds from certain divisions of Virgin Group will go toward tackling problem.

NEW YORK ( -- Famed British billionaire and Virgin Group chairman Richard Branson announced Thursday he would earmark an estimated $3 billion over the next 10 years toward fighting global warming.

Making his announcement at a news conference at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York, Branson said all future proceeds from Virgin Group's train and airline businesses would go toward tackling the problem.

"We must not be the generation responsible for irreversibly damaging the environment," said Branson. "We must hand it over to our children in as near pristine condition as we were lent it from our parents." (Watch as Branson puts his money where his mouth is)

Branson, who has transformed Virgin from a fledgling record label he created in the 1970s into a worldwide brand and company that dabbles in everything from the airline business to cell phones to record stores, stressed the need for consumers to eliminate their addiction to coal and fossil fuels to achieve this goal.

"Our generation has the knowledge, it has the financial resources and as importantly it has the willpower to do so," he said.

Global warming, defined by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as an increase in atmospheric temperature near the Earth's surface, has been blamed on a increase in concentration of greenhouse gases by many scientists. Carbon dioxide, one of the most prominent greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, comes from the combustion of coal, oil and gas, according to the U.S. government agency.

Branson's $3 billion pledge became the highlight of the second day of the Clinton Global Initiative meeting, which brings together some of the world biggest leaders to discuss global problems.

The staggering financial commitment by Branson and the Virgin Group does not come as a complete surprise. In an interview conducted in July with Business 2.0, Branson emphasized the need to take action against global warming.

"I used to be skeptical of global warming, but now I'm absolutely convinced that the world is spiraling out of control," Branson told the magazine. "CO2 is like a bushfire that gets bigger and bigger every year." (Read the full interview here)

Branson said the privately owned Virgin Group, which generated an estimated $8.1 billion in sales in 2004, according to research firm Dun & Bradstreet, was planning on investing $1 billion in alternative fuels over the next four years. Branson said the company was also attempting to create its own Virgin fuel, a clean fuel that would work in cars, trucks and trains within a year, possibly even in Virgin aircraft.

"It's not just that we thought we should do this to try to save the world and the thousands of species that could die if we don't do it," Branson said in the July interview, "... people want to save on the cost of fuel, and so alternative fuels suddenly make business sense."

Branson's pledge makes him the latest high-profile executive to make a staggering charitable donation this year. In July, Warren Buffett gave away the bulk of his then $44 billion Berkshire Hathaway (Charts) fortune to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Others scheduled to speak at the Clinton conference include Wal-Mart Stores (down $0.41 to $48.46, Charts) CEO Lee Scott, News Corp. (Charts) Chairman Rupert Murdoch and former President Jimmy Carter.

Branson's next big bet  Top of page

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