The Palm and the World projects in Dubai will disappear underwater in 50 years if the issue of climate change fails to be addressed by governments, Sir Richard Branson has warned delegates at day one of Leaders in Dubai.
"Over the next 50 years we will see the Palm projects and the World flooded by water and disappear if the issue of climate change is not addressed by global governments," the Virgin Group chairman said. "We are continuing to create this blanket of carbon that is getting thicker and thicker every year and which will ultimately heat up to such an extent that every fish will die and the earth will become uninhabitable."
Sir Richard has committed $3 billion of Virgin's own profits to developing clean energy and has offered $25 million to anyone who can eradicate carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Asked whether running an airline and a space tourism company was hypocritical while at the same time championing the need to reverse climate change, Branson said: "We can either sell our planes to British Airways or Emirates and watch their shareholders reap in the profits or we can carry on and take 100% of our profits and put them into trying to develop a fuel that will change the environment."
In June 2008 Virgin will launch the world's first biofuel run Boeing 747 plane with 20% of the plane's fuel will be made up of biofuels.
Sir Richard warned other Gulf countries by saying that oil reserves were fast depleting and that they should follow the example set by Dubai. "In five years time Dubai will run out of oil, but it has diversified its assets and interests enough with 95% of its income derived from tourism, property and music shops," he joked. "Other countries in the region should learn from what Dubai has done and they should beware that conventional fuel will begin to decline in the next five to 10 years."
The charismatic entrepreneur added that "every company" should join the fight against climate change by employing a "green ambassador".
"In the Middle East you have the sun. I can see a time in the future where whole countries are powered by the sun and the wind. I have two islands in the Caribbean and next year we'll be come carbon free for the first time. I have asked the Virgin Islands and the Dominican Republic government whether we can make them carbon free as well."
Sir Richard added that his Virgin Galactic space flights, that are scheduled to launch either in late 2008 or early 2009, would fly from Dubai to Sydney in 30 minutes in 10 to 20 years. "We will fly you out and back into the atmosphere using energy efficient fuel easily beating NASA's current effort of wasting two weeks energy supply of New York City each time it launches a Space Shuttle."
On whether companies should invest in Lebanon Branson said: "Lebanon is and was a beautiful country and people must invest in Lebanon. It would be too sad to see it go back to the tragedies of the past. If you go to the top of our restaurant on the roof of our music store there you can see the wastelands of Lebanon and what it once was. We should do all we can to rebuild the country and make sure that Lebanon doesn't become an acceptable risk."
Meanwhile Branson hinted at the Virgin Group's potential purchase of troubled UK mortgage lender Northern Rock that has lost over $6 billion and its CEO in this year's credit crisis. "We put in the proposal yesterday to take it over and turn it into the Virgin Bank in order to give the Big Four UK banks a run for their money and well know in a few weeks whether or not we've been successful."
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