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Branson pledges $3b to fight climate change

Billionaire credits meeting with Gore

NEW YORK -- British business mogul Richard Branson yesterday pledged to invest about $3 billion over the next decade to combat global warming and promote alternative energy, saying it is critical to protect the environment for future generations.

Branson, the billionaire behind the multiplatform Virgin brand, said all profits generated by Virgin Group's transportation sectors -- including train companies and five airlines -- will be invested in research and business efforts to develop and promote renewable, sustainable energy sources in an effort to wean the world from fossil fuels.

The so-called ``rebel billionaire" made the pronouncements on the second day of the Clinton Global Initiative, an annual conference of business, political, and nonprofit leaders hosted by former President Clinton.

Branson said he was inspired to contribute after a meeting with former Vice President Al Gore, who has been highly visible in raising awareness about global warming and environmental issues.

Gore warned that the world faces a ``full-scale planetary emergency" in global warming and said if the United States leads, it will spur other countries to action.

``We've allowed ourselves to adopt a philosophy of short-term thinking that somehow we think absolves us of future consequences of present actions," Gore said. ``The United States has to get on the road to solving the climate crisis as a leader of this effort."

Branson's commitment assured that the Clinton Global Initiative conference would surpass its goal of matching last year's efforts. By early yesterday afternoon, organizers said they had 114 commitments amounting to $5.7 billion. In 2005, the conference resulted in $2.5 billion in pledges.

About 50 current and former world leaders were expected to attend the summit, which is in its second year.

Participants yesterday included UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, actor Chris Tucker, and singer Barbra Streisand, who spent some time during a dinner yesterday catching up with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

The conference brings together government, business, and nonprofit sectors to spur action on poverty, healthcare, global warming, and religious/ethnic conflict.

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