Richard Branson Has an Ambitious Plan to Wean the World off Fossil Fuels

A Climate Coalition

Richard Branson is joining forces with a coalition of global investors and Caribbean leaders to bring disaster preparedness to 3.2 million Caribbean households through the Caribbean Climate-Smart Coalition.

The creation of this coalition was announced during the One Planet Summit in Paris, which was co-organized by United Nation’s Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, French President Emmanuel Macron, and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim.

“I’ve lived in the Caribbean for much of my life now, it is our home, and I’ve never seen anything like the devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria,” Branson wrote in a statement posted to Virgin’s website. “I’ve seen the deep pain that the people of the BVIs and other Caribbean countries have experienced…They are all facing an emergency situation and still need all of us to step up.”

Grenadian Prime Minister Keith Mitchell joined Richard Branson on stage at the One Planet Summit and expressed his optimism about the Caribbean Climate-Smart Coalition.

“Caribbean leaders have come together as a powerful collective to build a better future for the people of the Caribbean,” he said. “We welcome the financial commitments from our partners…This is a great first step.”

Clear Objectives

The Caribbean Climate-Smart Coalition will work with global finance giants such as the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank, and the Caribbean Development Bank to mobilize $ 8 billion and bring new infrastructure and energy security to vulnerable regional communities.

The Coalition’s first objective is to boost disaster relief and reconstruction after the hurricanes and help build resilience in the face of more frequent, more severe weather events that are likely to hit the region in the future.

Hurricanes Have Been Enhanced by Climate Change
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Like other similar regional partnerships in Africa and Asia Pacific, it will facilitate the circulation of financial aid and technology transfer. To do so, the alliance will focus on a set of key priorities.

First among those is the scaling of renewable energy systems and reduction of the communities’ dependence on fossil fuels. This will prevent people from being left in the dark if the central energy distribution system breaks down, as often happens during severe storms.

Other priorities include building low-carbon infrastructure designed to withstand storms and exploring creative financing models that reward progress on policy reforms and sustainable growth pathways.

Ultimately, Branson hopes the Coalition’s work will inspire other regions of the world to transition to clean energy and resilient infrastructure. “The Caribbean can truly be a model of accelerating new technologies and approaches to create a smart climate zone that can be replicated around the world,” he wrote in his statement.

As we’ve seen this year in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico, and Houston, Texas, hurricanes are becoming more frequent and powerful in the wake of climate change, and their evolution requires that the way we cope with these natural disasters evolve as well. Embracing clean energy is a vital part of that.

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Richard Branson Wants to Spearhead Efforts to Rebuild Power Grids in the Caribbean

Virgin Islands

Last month, hurricanes Irma and Maria caused widespread destruction throughout the Caribbean. Having lived in the British Virgin Islands for over a decade, experiencing the storms firsthand from a cellar on his private island, philanthropist Richard Branson has committed to playing a major role in efforts to rebuild.

Branson is currently assembling a team to work on a project he’s calling the Disaster Recovery Marshall Plan. The name is a nod to the original Marshall Plan, a program run by the United States that helped countries in western Europe recover in the aftermath of World War II.

The plan will outline a method for improving infrastructure across the Caribbean, which presently has outdated power grids that rely on fossil fuel.  Branson’s plan would see these replaced by improved modern versions that make use of renewable sources of energy.

“We want to move the Caribbean countries into clean energy and make them more sustainable, which will make dealing with hurricanes much easier,” Branson told Reuters. “The Caribbean Heads of State agree with one voice that this is a good idea.”

Another storm could hit the areas affected by the recent hurricanes at any time, so repairs need to be swift and sturdy enough to withstand that possible scenario. The new grid will be designed with resistance to the effects of extreme weather in mind.

The Green Grid

In the wake of Hurricane Maria’s impact on Puerto Rico, Elon Musk embarked upon a very public attempt to secure a contract to allow Tesla to rebuild the country’s power grid. The job eventually went to Whitefish, but the situation served to illustrate how attractive this kind of work is for energy specialists.

Tesla wanted to use the aftermath of Hurricane Maria to demonstrate the strength of its Powerpack battery system. A successful implementation at a time when all eyes are on relief efforts could help foster usage of the technology in other parts of the world.

Branson may have a similar strategy in mind when it comes to the Disaster Recovery Marshall Plan. In 2016, Virgin acquired BMR Energy, a company that develops wind energy projects across the Caribbean and Latin America.

In 2017, we’ve seen hurricanes have caused a devastating amount of destruction across the Caribbean. It’s crucial that the rebuilding process gets underway as quickly as possible to help the people that were affected return to normalcy. That said, it’s just as important that these efforts produce a power grid that won’t be destroyed by the next round of extreme storms.

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Get Ready. Richard Branson is Investing in a Hyperloop.

The Startup Formerly Known as Hyperloop One

Virgin Group already has a hand in space travel through its Virgin Galactic spaceflight company, and now the group is investing in high-speed transportation. Specifically — hyperloop transportation.

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson announced earlier today that Virgin Group is investing in Hyperloop One, which recently acquired additional funding from investors last month. It’s unknown exactly how much money Virgin is spending on Hyperloop One, but it was enough to get the company to agree to a re-branding. Going forward, Hyperloop One will now be known as Virgin Hyperloop One.

Despite the name change, the transportation startup’s goals remain the same. It will continue to develop and test its hyperloop pod and tracks as well as investigate the viability of previously announced routes.

Sustained Interest

TechCrunch notes that included in the re-branding, Virgin Hyperloop One will now be associated with Virgin Group’s other projects. Hyperloop now has a powerful billionaire with an interest in the future backing it, which can go a long way when trying to introduce a new concept.

“Ever since our creation, Virgin has been known for disruption and investing in innovative companies,” said Branson in a blog post. “From our airlines to our trains to our spaceline, we have long been passionate about innovation in transport too, especially the development of technology that could transform people’s lives. This is just the latest example.”

Branson went on to explain how he’d recently visited the DevLoop test site outside Las Vegas to get a first-hand look at the technology involved in Hyperloop. At the time, the pod was able to reach a top speed of 310 km/h (192 mph) with a peak acceleration of 1.48 Gs – the equivalent of going from 0 to 60 mph in 1.85 seconds.

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Richard Branson and Virgin join forces with Hyperloop One

Today, the Virgin Group has announced that it has invested in Hyperloop One, the startup that recently demonstrated a working prototype of the travel system. As well as cash, and the involvement of Sir Richard Branson, the company will re-brand as Vi…
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Richard Branson: Virgin Galactic Will Start Conquering Space Tourism by Early Next Year

A Different Focus

Last week, veteran entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson was among the guest speakers at the 2017 Nordic Business Forum (NBF) held in Helsinki, Finland. On stage, Branson spoke about how he started his record label some 50 years ago, and went on to explain how he ended up opening his own airline company, Virgin Atlantic. Since then, Branson has been in the business of flight and he hopes to bring his passengers to space soon.

For some time now, Branson’s Virgin Galactic has been testing the capabilities of their ship, the VSS Unity, a commercial suborbital spaceplane developed in tandem with The Spaceship Company. Earlier this year, they tested the ship’s re-entry system after successfully completing a couple of solo-glide flights in 2016.

Branson said back in May that he was confident the company would be able to send their first batch of tourists into space by 2018 — a goal he reiterated during his talk. “We are hopefully about three months before we are in space, maybe six months before I’m in space,” he said, according to Business Insider.

Image credit: Nordic Business Forum/Business Insider

Point-to-Point Orbital Travel

Virgin Galactic, Branson told an audience of about 7,500 people, isn’t like Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Branson’s commercial space venture, unlike Musk’s, isn’t aiming for Mars, which the British entrepreneur said “is an incredible challenge.”

Branson, however, added that he wants to do more than just send people into space for sightseeing. He’s looking at using Virgin Galactic’s spacecrafts for point to point travel at roughly 483 k/h (300 mph), an idea that seems similar to Musk’s BFR Earth-to-Earth travel. “That is something we are going to be in the best position in the world to do,” Branson said.

As for Mars, Branson’s leaving that to SpaceX. “I suspect Elon [Musk] will get there first. He’s more interested in big rockets going big distances,” Branson explained. “My love for space is about how much it can do for people back here on Earth.”

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Richard Branson: Universal Basic Income Will Protect Us From the Threat of AI

Universal Basic Income: A Safety Net?

Billionaire entrepreneur and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson recently sat down with Business Insider Nordic (BI Nordic) during the Nordic Business Forum in Helsinki. A few months ago, Branson joined other tech elites to support Universal Basic Income (UBI). In a blog post from mid-August, Branson stated that “most countries can afford to make sure that everybody has their basic needs covered.”

Now, in discussing Finland’s UBI experiment, Branson told the BI Nordic reporters that a safety net provided by a basic income could help counter the effects of artificial intelligence and increased automation. He said, “Basic income is going to be all the more important. If a lot more wealth is created by AI, the least that the country should be able to do is that a lot of that wealth that is created by AI goes back into making sure that everybody has a safety net.”

Image credit: Nordic Business Forum
Image credit: Nordic Business Forum

“Entrepreneurially Minded”

Many business leaders in the tech sector have voiced support of basic income programs which would see everyone receive unconditional payments to facilitate a basic level of comfort. There are basic income experiments being conducted or planned in regions all around the world.  Experts assert that while the age of automation may be approaching at a slow crawl, it is coming.

Universal Basic Income: The Answer to Automation?
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“Obviously AI is a challenge to the world in that there’s a possibility that it will take a lot of jobs away. [..] It’s up to all of us to be entrepreneurially minded enough to create those new jobs,” Branson said.

“I don’t think we’re going to have a choice,” SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk said at the World Government Summit in February, referring to the inevitability of mass-scale automation. “I think it’s going to be necessary. There will be fewer and fewer jobs that a robot cannot do better.” As long as more automation awaits us in the future, we will need to devise a way to ensure that jobs lost do not result in widespread poverty. Universal Basic Income is a realistic, practical way to remedy this, and right now, no one has a better alternative.

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Sir Richard Branson Thinks the World Needs to Consider Universal Basic Income

A Stipend for Self-Esteem

English business mogul Sir Richard Branson thinks the modern world could benefit from universal basic income (UBI). The Virgin founder published a blog post on the company’s website outlining why he believes the system deserves consideration.

Universal Basic Income: UBI Pilot Programs Around the World
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In the post, Branson describes his experiences during a recent trip to Finland, where a nationwide experiment with UBI that provides 2,000 Finns with an unconditional income of €560 (roughly $ 655) monthly was launched earlier this year.

UBI has frequently been touted as a potential solution for the unemployment surge expected to result from the increased use of automation in the workplace. However, Branson praises the idea for more human reasons — specifically the sense of self-esteem that comes from not having to worry about having the baseline amount of money needed for life’s essentials.

In his post, he expresses a hope that giving people this leg up would allow them to utilize their own creativity and entrepreneurial spirit to carve out a better life for themselves. “A key point is that the money will be paid even if the people find work,” observed Branson. “The initiative aims to reduce unemployment and poverty while cutting red tape, allowing people to pursue the dignity and purpose of work without the fear of losing their benefits by taking a low-paid job.”

Branson, of course, knows a thing or two about entrepreneurship. Since founding a magazine at the age of 16, the business magnate has pursued a string of hugely successful ventures, including a mail-order record shop, a music label, and an international airline, all of which have contributed to his current net worth of $ 5 billion.

Pay It Forward

Branson adds his name to a growing list of very wealthy, technologically savvy individuals who have pledged their support for research into UBI.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg recently made an impassioned case for UBI following an excursion to Alaska. For decades, the state has implemented a version of the idea, which is funded using revenue from natural oil resources, rather than via taxation.

Meanwhile, Elon Musk stated at the 2017 World Government Summit that he believes UBI is something of an inevitability. As he sees it, the bigger problem is giving people something to do when automation makes them unnecessary in the workplace, which dovetails with Branson’s idea that a basic income could act as a springboard for individual entrepreneurship.

However, not every billionaire shares this take on UBI. Dallas Mavericks owner and AXS TV chairman Mark Cuban has been very critical of the concept, describing it as “one of the worst possible responses” to job losses caused by automation.

Billionaires may know money, but they’re not always the best sources for opinions on social policy — that being said, other experts who have spoken on the subject have delivered arguments that are broadly similar to Branson’s. UBI might not be the be-all, end-all for dealing with poverty and unemployment, but it could certainly give people a better foundation upon which to build a full and prosperous life.

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Richard Branson Suggests the U.S. Focus on Clean Energy Instead of Reviving Coal

The Better Option

At a panel discussion during the DS Virgin Racing Innovation Summit on Friday, Virgin Galactic CEO and founder Sir Richard Branson had a suggestion for the United States government. Instead of trying to revive the country’s declining coal mining industry — a promise U.S. president Donald Trump made in March as part of a “new era in American energy and production and job creation” — Branson suggested focusing on clean energy.

Renewable Energy Sources Of The Future [Infographic]
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“Coal mining is not the nicest of jobs, and coal mining disappeared in Britain many decades ago,” Branson said, replying to a question by Yahoo Finance. “Pretty much every single one of those coal miners went into jobs which were far more pleasant, far less dangerous, far better for their health, and I doubt that there’s one coal miner that looks back thinking, ‘God, I wish I was down in a coal mine.’”

During the talk, Branson noted that clean energy jobs wouldn’t just benefit the coal miners. They’d also be good for the U.S. and the world as a whole. According to a study from the Michigan Technological University, the coal industry causes 52,000 American deaths each year due to air pollution, and transitioning to clean energy sources would decrease the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, helping the world in the fight against global warming.

Renewables Taking the Lead

While the U.S. government is working to revive coal, the rest of the world is veering away from it. India, for example, has shut down 37 mines that belonged to the world’s largest coal company, while France has promised to close down all coal power plants by 2023.

These moves aren’t just being made for environmental reasons. Renewables, such as solar and wind, have become a more profitable form of energy. Solar power has been decreasing in cost, and renewables will likely surpass coal and other fossil fuels in the next decade as the cheapest form of energy. At the same time, the renewable industry is creating jobs. In the U.S. alone, solar already employs twice as many people as coal and more than Apple, Facebook, and Google combined.

How coal could compete with clean energy in the future has not been made clear by the Trump administration, and Branson sees the federal government’s lack of support for clean energy as a problem.

“Obviously, what’s happened in America, having an administration that put out the most bizarre statement on [the Paris climate agreement] is not good news because you do need governments to set the rules,” Branson told the audience in New York. ”And you do need to make it clear that clean energy should have a leg up over dirty energy. And you have a government that’s not setting proper differentials. That’s going to be tricky.”

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