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British entrepreneur Richard Branson has committed what could amount to US$3 billion to research into renewable energies in possibly the largest-ever personal donation to fight climate change.

He made the announcement yesterday (21 September) at the Clinton Global Initiative, a three-day meeting of philanthropists in New York, United States.

Branson will invest all the personal gains he makes from his airline and train companies over the next 10 years into finding non-polluting sources of energy, an amount which he estimated could come to US$3 billion.

Earlier this month, on 10 September, Branson's company Virgin announced the launch of a new subsidiary company, Virgin Fuels, which will invest up to US$400 million in renewable energy initiatives over the next three years.

Also yesterday, at a meeting in Saudi Arabia, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) focused on new technologies that could ensure a cleaner use of oil and natural gas.

"There is a need to focus on technological options that allow the continued use of oil in a carbon-constrained world," said OPEC director of research Hasan Qabazard.

OPEC was meeting to review the possibility of applying carbon dioxide capture and storage, a technology that captures harmful gases from industrial activities such as power generation and stores them underground in depleted oilfields.

The technology has the "dual benefit of reducing carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere while enhancing oil [extraction]," said Saudi governor Majed al-Moneef.

Carbon capture and storage is not yet used in any major industrial operations, but three pilot projects are trying it out in Algeria, Canada and the North Sea.

Initial reports say it can cut industrial emissions of gases that contribute to global warming by half while boosting oil extraction by up to 15 per cent.