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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 September 2006, 21:24 GMT 22:24 UK
Branson makes $3bn climate pledge
Sir Richard Branson in New York

Sir Richard Branson is to invest $3bn (1.6bn) to fight global warming.

The Virgin boss said he would commit all profits from his travel firms, such as airline Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Trains, over the next 10 years.

"We must rapidly wean ourselves off our dependence on coal and fossil fuels," Sir Richard said.

The funds will be invested in schemes to develop new renewable energy technologies, through an investment unit called Virgin Fuels.

One of the UK's best known entrepreneurs, Sir Richard made the announcement in New York on the second day of the Clinton Global Initiative, an annual conference hosted by former US President Bill Clinton.

Sir Richard, 56, said that transport and energy companies "must be at the forefront of developing environmentally friendly business strategies".

Planes and trains

Virgin Trains
Virgin Trains operates two UK rail franchises

Sir Richard recently launched a new Virgin Fuels business, which will invest up to $400m in green energy projects.

It has already announced its backing for a California firm, Cilion which plans to make bio ethanol from corn.

Friends of the Earth broadly welcomed Sir Richard's announcement, but the environmental pressure group warned that the continued fast growth in air travel could not be maintained "without causing climatic disaster".

Worth an estimated 3bn, Sir Richard started his career in the record industry before moving into everything from mobile phones to credit cards.

He established his main airline Virgin Atlantic in 1984, starting services between London and New York.

He also owns two low-cost airlines, Virgin Express in Europe and Virgin Blue in Australia.

His Virgin Group owns a 51% stake in UK train company Virgin Trains.

This firm operates the UK's West Coast Main Line franchise between London and the west of Scotland, and the cross country franchise between the south west of England and Scotland.

Major donations

Mr Branson's investment pledge comes after US billionaire investor Warren Buffett announced in June that he was donating $37bn to charity.

BRANSON FACTS
Born in 1950
Started Virgin Records in 1972
Virgin Atlantic launches in 1984
Enters UK railways in 1997
Knighted in 1999

Mr Buffett gave the money to the charitable foundation run by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, which works to reduce global poverty and improve health and access to education.

Mr Gates himself said in July that the charity, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, was pledging $287m in a bid to speed-up the development of a vaccine for the HIV/Aids virus.

Sir Richard has previously given money to educational charities in Africa.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Richard Branson explains why he is donating the money



SEE ALSO
Profile: Richard Branson
21 Sep 06 |  Business
Branson on wealth
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