Branson offers $25m prize for saving Earth

Billionaire businessman Richard Branson has announced he will give $25 million to the person who comes up with the best idea to remove significant amounts of carbon from the atmosphere.

Branson was joined by former US Vice President Al Gore in launching his Earth Challenge competition on Friday, saying he hoped it would increase the pace of research and development in this area.

Last year Mr Branson announced plans to invest £3 billion in the development of renewable energy over the next ten years, but the prize of $25 million is aimed to spur innovation.

The Virgin boss stressed the urgency of tackling climate change and pointed out that necessity was the mother of invention.

He said the prize was the largest ever offered and compared it to the competition to come up with a method to accurately measure longitude in the 18th Century. Despite the fortune on offer, that competition took 60 years to produce a winner.

“The Earth cannot wait 60 years,” Branson told reporters.

“I want a future for my children and my children’s children. The clock is ticking.”

The judging panel for the high-profile competition reads like an environmentalist A-list, with tub-thumping Al Gore joined by Gaia theorist James Lovelock, James Hansen, head of the Nasa Institute for Space Studies, eco-academic Sir Crispin Tickell and Australian conservationist Tim Flannery.

The winning solution must have the potential to remove at least one billion tonnes of carbon per year from the atmosphere.

Conventional carbon capture and storage as practiced today is out of the running, with judges citing risk of leakage as its downfall.

Sam Bond

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