prince charles

Facing diminished hopes ahead of what many see as world leaders’ last chance to combat the climate crisis, Britain’s Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, on Monday called for a “warlike” effort as he opened a key United Nations climate summit.

Prince Charles has suggested the audience during his speech at the COP26 climate conference that world governments had no choice but to engage in a “military-style campaign” across an otherwise-doomed planet.

“We need a vast military-style campaign to marshal the strength of the global private sector,” Charles, 72, said. “With trillions at its disposal.”

The countries of the world must put themselves “on a war-like footing” to address the looming climate crisis, Prince Charles said in his opening speech to the climate conference in Glasgow on Monday. He warned that climate change posed “an even greater existential threat” than the Covid-19 pandemic.

Acknowledging that tackling climate change “will take trillions, not billions of dollars,” he admitted that some countries, “many of whom are burdened by growing levels of debt, simply cannot afford to go green.” 

The prince then proposed a solution beloved by green-minded billionaires around the globe“putting a value on carbon, thus making carbon capture solutions more economical.” 

Carbon credits, which effectively allow companies to buy rights to emit a certain amount of carbon dioxide, have been the focus of climate change jet-setters for years, unlocking the ‘value’ of nature’s commons without forcing the emitters-in-chief to actually cease their environmentally-unfriendly activities.

The prince issued a plea for “countries to come together to create the environment that enables every sector of industry to take the action required,” without specifying what exactly that action might be – only that it must involve a “military-style campaign” if it hopes to achieve success.

He said: Here we need a vast military-style campaign to marshal the strength of the global private sector. With trillions at its disposal, far beyond global GDP and with the greatest respect beyond even the governments of the world’s leaders, it offers the only real prospect of achieving fundamental economic transition.

He reminded the attendees that “the eyes and hopes of the world are upon you” because “time has literally run out,” presumably referring to event organizers’ insistence that it would be one of the last chances to rope the world’s governments into committing to carbon-cutting goals that would keep planetary warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above “pre-industrial” levels. That was the goal agreed upon in Paris in 2015, and for deep-pocketed environmentalists like the prince, it remains an absolute-must in order to “lay the foundations for a sustainable future.”

The prince on Sunday deemed the conference the “last chance saloon” to save the planet after declaring last week that world leaders faced a “dangerously narrow” window to fight climate change.

The summit, which was delayed by a year because of the Covid-19 pandemic, will be a family affair for the royals. In addition to his wife, Camilla, Charles will also be joined at the conference by his older son and daughter-in-law, Prince William and Kate. Queen Elizabeth II was originally scheduled to attend but canceled her appearance on the advice of doctors. Instead, she will deliver a recorded video address.

Existing national climate pledges have put the world on track for a global temperature rise by the end of the century of 2.7 degrees Celsius, rather than the 1.5-degree target set forth under the 2015 Paris Agreement, according to a report released last week by the U.N. Environment Programme.

Biden, who has made addressing climate change a priority, arrived at the summit after spending the weekend in Rome at the G-20 summit of leading rich and developing nations. He will be joined by 12 Cabinet members and senior administration officials.

There’s a lingering question however, of how much Biden will be able to deliver in terms of climate commitments. Although he has announced his $1.75 trillion climate and social spending plan, he has yet to get it passed. His framework will put the United States on course to meet its emissions reduction targets, according to the White House.

There were also several notable leaders missing at the Glasgow summit. Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro are not expected to attend. On Sunday, Biden pointed to Russia and China’s absence at the G-20 as the reason that the Rome meeting’s climate commitments didn’t go far enough.

Ahead of the opening ceremony, journalists and other conference attendees posted photos on social media of long lines to get in.

Other world leaders at the summit included German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, along with climate change activist and former Vice President Al Gore. After multiple calls for “royal highnesses, your excellencies, lords, ladies and gentlemen” to take their seats, the opening ceremony got underway.

“If we don’t get serious about climate change today, it will be too late for our children,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said at the opening, after comparing the task for COP26 attendees to James Bond saving the world.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, included in the lineup of opening speakers, warned that without action, “we are digging our own graves.”

Famed British naturalist David Attenborough similarly appealed to world leaders to work together to set urgent and aggressive targets to reduce emissions and chip away at the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which hit a new record high level last year.

“If working apart, we are a force powerful enough to destabilize the planet, then surely working together, we are powerful enough to save it,” Attenborough said.

He added that young people, who have been instrumental in demanding climate action from their governments, should have hope that their calls for change can produce meaningful results at the climate summit.


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