Entrepreneur Richard Branson outlined a vision of the world powered by renewable energy and said it would be “pretty dreadful” if a forthcoming UN climate summit is not a success.
“It would be, I think, pretty dreadful if we don’t have a big success in Paris,” the billionaire British founder of Virgin Group told a gathering of business leaders in New York.
The Paris conference will gather together heads of state and government from November 30 in a bid to crown a six-year effort by 195 nations with a post-2020 pact on curbing greenhouse gases.
He called for an end to subsidies for dirty fuels and oil drilling in the Arctic, and for a cap on coal and a carbon tax, saying that he was prepared to shoulder the short-term cost.
“Obviously I’ve got three airlines, it won’t be great news in the short term, but it definitely needs to see a global carbon tax,” the businessman said.
He urged governments and businesses to come up with big innovations to counter climate change. Money from taxing “dirty industries,” he said, should “go into a big innovation pot.”
“The end result by 2050,” said Branson “will be a world where we’re powered by sun, we’re powered by wind… we’re powered by other innovations.”
It would be a world, he said, where fuel would be cheaper than today to benefit hospitals and schools.
“Countries that are big oil producers, coal producers are going to have to adapt but the vast majority of the world will benefit. It will pull everyone out of poverty and it will be a really exciting world to aim for.”
Branson is one of Britain’s most high-profile businessmen, whom Forbes estimates to be worth $4.9 billion.
He is also co-founder of The B Team, a coalition of global business leaders working to advance the wellbeing of the planet.
Branson spoke on a panel of business leaders as the UN General Assembly in New York prepares to adopt Sustainable Development Goals, a new 15-year agenda to eliminate poverty.