Branson, Gore Announce $25 Million ‘Virgin Earth Challenge’

by | Feb 9, 2007

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Sir Richard Branson and Al Gore have set up a new global science and technology prize -? The Virgin Earth Challenge – which will award $25 million to the individual or group who are able to demonstrate a commercially viable design which will remove at least 1 billion tons of atmospheric carbon dioxide per year for at least ten years without harmful effects.  The removal must have long term effects and contribute materially to the stability of the Earth’s climate.  It is the largest science and technology prize ever offerred.

The Virgin Earth Challenge will initially be open for five years; the judges will meet annually to determine whether a design has been submitted during the previous year that in their view should win the prize and, if so, they may award the prize without waiting for the five year period to elapse.  If no winner has been selected at the end of five years, the judges may decide to roll the prize forward for a further five years.

Brandon called on governments and members of the international community to join in The Virgin Earth Challenge by matching or adding to the prize available to encourage the greatest number of entrants of those who could come up with a solution which could save our planet. “If the greatest minds in the world today compete, as I’m sure they will, for The Virgin Earth Challenge, I believe that a solution to the C02 problem could hopefully be found -? a solution that could save our planet – not only for our children but for all the children yet to come,” Branson said.

Branson will be joined in the adjudication of the Prize by a panel of five judges – all world authorities in their respective fields:  Al Gore, Sir Crispin Tickell, Tim Flannery, Jim Hansen and James Lovelock. The panel of judges will be assisted in their deliberations by The Climate Group and Special Advisor to The Virgin Earth Prize Judges, Steve Howard.

The announcement comes on the heels of the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which last week announced that temperatures on earth could increase by as much as 6.4C by the end of this Century.

“By launching the $25 million Virgin Earth Challenge, the largest ever science and technology prize to be offered in history, we want to encourage scientists and individuals from around the world to come up with a way of removing lethal carbon dioxide from the earth’s atmosphere,” Branson said.  “By competing for this prize they will follow in the footsteps of many of history’s greatest inventors and innovators.  But in this case potentially save the planet. It is our hope and belief that the winner of The Virgin Earth Challenge will help to reverse the collision course our beautiful world is currently on.  They will not only make history but preserve history for many, many generations to come. However, it is important to remember that there is a real possibility that no one will win this prize.”  

“Carbon dioxide levels already are far above anything measured in the prior 650,000 year record, and just last week in Paris scientists gave us their strongest warning yet of the consequences of inaction,” Gore said.  “So the dangers are clear.  But the opportunities, if we take action now, are innumerable, and Sir Richard’s initiative to stimulate exploration of this new approach to the climate crisis is important and welcome.”

The creation of the Virgin Earth Prize is one of a number of Branson initiatives including investment in renewable energy research and the $3 billion dollar Clinton Initiative pledge in September 2006.

Al Gore has planned a series of concerts “bigger than Live Aid” in a bid to put the subject of climate change before a global audience,

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