RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
In the days before President Trump withdrew from the Paris Agreement, 30 CEOs wrote him a letter. They wanted him to keep the U.S. in the deal. The CEOs were part of a coalition of business leaders committed to reducing emissions around the world. Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson helped create that coalition, called The B Team, and he says leaving the Paris Agreement is a colossal mistake. Sir Richard Branson joins us now on the line.
Thanks so much for being with us this morning.
RICHARD BRANSON: Thank you for having us.
MARTIN: What argument did you make in that letter to President Trump?
BRANSON: Well, we first of all spoke as fathers and grandfathers, just asking him to do the right thing for the planet, to stay in the Paris Agreement as the other 193 countries will be doing, and to make sure that our beautiful planet is preserved for generations to come. We also mentioned to him that it was good business sense to stay in because powering America and the world by clean energy is going to be cheaper than powering it by dirty energy. It will create more jobs. And people forever will be paying electricity and other bills at something like half of what they currently pay. So...
BRANSON: ...It was a good business decision as well.
MARTIN: Let me ask you about that because CEOs, economists, governors and mayors in the U.S. point out that green technology, carbon-cutting policies - these are just good business, as you say. And that kind of policymaking and innovation, frankly, is going to keep happening despite the president's decision to get out of the Paris Accord. So does it really matter that the U.S. isn't in this anymore?
BRANSON: Look, it would certainly be a lot more helpful if the rules that were set by the leaders of the U.S. directed - you know, helped a clean energy revolution. I think it will happen anyway. And many of the states - and a lot of Republican states - are, you know, pushing very quickly forward with clean energy. But, for instance, you know, we believe that if you could - you know, if you could help direct people's movements by, you know, maybe imposing your taxes on dirty fuels but not taxing clean fuels, you'll speed up the process.
Having said that, look, the rest of the world is going to get on with it. Business people throughout America will get on with it. Governors of many states in America will get on with it. And hopefully, somehow we will still reach carbon neutrality by 2050.
MARTIN: But President Trump says he's...
BRANSON: It is a...
MARTIN: Let me finish by asking you - President Trump says he's open to renegotiating this deal. Do you believe him? Will you continue to lobby him?
BRANSON: I - look, (laughter) - I'm afraid I have no respect for him whatsoever anymore, you know, particularly after this. I think that - you know, the deal is not there to be renegotiated. What it has said is that every country in the world must get to carbon neutrality by 2050. And it's a voluntary agreement.
BRANSON: And most countries will just get on and get there. But the sad thing is that no man is an island, as John Donne said some years ago. And it would be lovely if America could - you know, could have...
MARTIN: Could lead in this, yeah.
BRANSON: ...Embraced it.
MARTIN: Sir Richard Branson - he's the founder of the Virgin Group. Thank you so much.
BRANSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.