Billionaire coughs up for new climate policy initiative

2009-10-16 15:30

PUTTING his money where his mouth is – this seems to be a truism that billionaire George Soros lives by.

Soros has announced that he would fund an initiative to promote global regulatory policies aimed at fighting climate change.

He made the announcement in Copenhagen, at a global editors’ conference on climate change – a prelude to December’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in December to draw up a new treaty to save the planet’s climate – the formation of a Climate Policy Initiative.

Soros will fund the initiative to the tune of US$10 million (about R70 million) a year for the next 10 years.

He also announced his intention to invest up to US$1 billion in clean energy technology.

Soros known for his political and social philanthrophy said: ‘‘The science (on global warming) is clear, what is less clear is whether the world leaders will demonstrate the political will necessary to solve the problem.’’

Soros is a global financier who was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1930. He was 13 when Hitler’s armies invaded the country and started deporting Jews to concentration camps.

In 1964 he defected and later emigrated to England where he surported himself by working as a railroad porter and waiter. In 1952 he graduated from the London School of Economics.

In 1956, he migrated to the US where he worked as a trader and analyst until 1963. In 1967 he helped establish an offshore investment fund; and in 1973 he set up a private investment firm that eventually evolved into the Quantum Fund, one of the first hedge funds, through which he accumulated a vast fortune, and today he is listed, by Forbes, as one of the richest people in the world.

His philanthropic work includes:

  • In 1979 he provided funds to help black students attend the University of Cape Town in apartheid South Africa.
  • He created a foundation in Hungary to support culture and education and the country’s transition to democracy.
  • He supported educational radio programs in Mongolia and later contributed $100 million for internet access to every regional university in Russia.
  • In 1991 he helped found the Central European University, a graduate institution in Budapest that focuses on social and political development.
  • He spent $50 million to help the citizens of Sarajevo endure the city’s siege during the Bosnian war, funding among other projects a water-filtration plant that allowed residents to avoid having to draw water from distribution points targeted by Serb snipers.
  • He has provided $50 million to support the Millennium Villages initiative, which seeks to lift some of the least developed villages in Africa out of poverty.

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