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Richard Branson on Climate Change: ‘There’s a Lot of Money to Be Made’

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WASHINGTON – Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, said “there’s a lot of money to be made” by eliminating carbon emissions to combat climate change.

Branson was asked to identify an industry he would like to see disrupted.

“I think the clean energy industry is so essential to this world that I would love to see more and more of you out there building clean-energy companies. In the Paris talks, it was decided that by 2050, we’re going to be carbon neutral, the whole world, pretty much every country in the world — 190 countries signed onto that,” Branson said during Virgin Atlantic’s “Business Is an Adventure” panel discussion before an audience consisting mostly of entrepreneurs.

“There’s a lot of work to be done to get to carbon neutral by 2050 and there’s a lot of money to be made by getting to carbon neutral by 2050 by the clean-energy companies. So I would love to see as many brains going into that as possible, otherwise we’re going to have a messed up world for our grandkids,” he added.

Branson was referring to the climate agreement reached in December 2015 after negotiations in Paris.

Kevin Plank, CEO of Under Armour, which is based in Baltimore, urged public officials to put together a blueprint for the ideal “modern city of the future.” He mentioned last year’s riots in Baltimore and said it did not look like the city was burning down from his office, contrary to what was shown on the news.

“Cities are one of the greatest assets of the world because they invite arts and culture and diversity and all these things that are so great, and I don’t think that we have created the perfect formula of how the modern city of the future should live,” he said.

“And I think there are lots of great companies contributing to it like Uber, etc., but it would be my call to action and my challenge to the political class to say, ‘You figure out how to make us the perfect model city that we can then replicate over and over again here at home in America as well as abroad,’” he added.

Sheila C. Johnson, founder and CEO of Salamander Hotels & Resorts, and Donna Harris, co-founder and co-CEO of 1776, said they would like to see changes made to the country’s education system.

“I’m very concerned of how education is failing so many of our brightest minds and we’ve got to get a handle on this because we’re losing talent left and right,” Johnson said.

Harris said education leaders “have not even begun” to imagine the impact of the digital economy on the entire population.

“Where are the jobs going to be? What are the skills that people will need when the computer can do so much of what the human used to do?” she said.