King Charles III challenged a gathering of world leaders to take “truly transformative action” to slow the spiral of greenhouse gas emissions, declaring that “the hope of the world depends on the decisions you have to make.”
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the UN Climate Summit in Dubai, Charles listed a litany of climate-related natural disasters that have struck the world in the past year: forest fires in Canada; Floods in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh; Hurricanes in the Pacific Ocean. Drought in East Africa.
“We are moving the natural world beyond balanced norms and boundaries, into dangerous uncharted territory,” he said. “Our choice now is a much clearer and darker one: How risky are we actually willing to make our world?”
For Charles, who has been asked by the British government not to attend the 2022 COP meeting in Egypt, this was a high-profile return to the stage on an issue he has championed ever since climate change became part of the everyday vocabulary.
The king displayed a familiar mix of evangelical urgency and a keen understanding of the details of global climate negotiations. He spoke dramatically about the looming catastrophe of climate change, but also praised insurance companies for their role in helping support climate financing arrangements.
“I have spent a large part of my life trying to warn of the existential threats facing us,” said Charles, who recently turned 75. But despite his efforts, he noted, “there is a 30 percent increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now.” “And then there was” when warnings about greenhouse gas emissions first began.
“It concerns me greatly that we are still frighteningly off track,” he said.
Charles is one of several British leaders who will appear at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) and it was not clear whether their messages would be in sync. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who is due to speak later on Friday, has indicated he will relax some of Britain’s emissions-cutting targets if they impose an unbearable burden on ordinary people.
For Charles, who will not face election next year, the challenge posed by climate change is simpler and the remedy clearer. He said that rising temperatures pose an existential threat to humanity, and called on leaders to take collective action to protect those most directly affected by climate change.
“The risks are no longer far-fetched,” he added. “Real action is certainly needed to stop the mounting toll on the most vulnerable victims.”
“The land is not ours,” Charles concluded. “We belong to the Earth.”
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