The King issued a rallying cry to world leaders to save the planet from catastrophic climate change on Friday, stating: “The Earth does not belong to us, we belong to the Earth”.
Addressing the United Nations COP28 summit in Dubai, he warned heads of government, business chiefs and climate campaigners that the world remains “dreadfully far off track” in key net zero targets. As the planet warms with wildfires and floods already destroying communities, he emphasised: “In 2050 our grandchildren won’t be asking what we said, they will be living with the consequences of what we did or didn’t do.”
The 75-year-old monarch and Commonwealth head had flown to the United Arab Emirates amid the Omid Scobie book furore. The Dutch edition of Scobie’s book Endgame named the King and his daughter-in-law, the Princess of Wales, as having made remarks about Prince Archie’s skin colour before he was born. Endgame was hastily withdrawn from shop shelves in the Netherlands and copies pulped with the publisher blaming a “translation error”.
At the summit, the King publicly ignored the controversy as he took centre stage, being hailed for his work over the decades highlighting the threats to the globe and nature.
He spelled out a five-point plan to save the planet. They are how public and private organisations can be brought together to combat climate change, how to ensure money is found for developments to secure a sustainable future, how innovation can be accelerated, how long-term approaches can be found, and how an “ambitious new vision” can be forged for the next century.
The King acknowledged some “important” progress had been made but stressed that “transformational action” was needed as the dangers of climate change were “no longer distant risks” and that nature was being taken into “dangerous, uncharted territory”.
He urged delegates to make the summit a “turning point”. The King pointed to repeated cyclones seen in island nations, wildfires across Europe and unprecedented floods in Asia as some of many clear signs of ongoing climate change. “As I have tried to say on many occasions, unless we rapidly repair and restore nature’s unique economy, based on harmony and balance, which is our ultimate sustainer, our own economy and survivability will be imperilled,” he said.
Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, states agreed to limit the average global temperature rise to 2C above pre-industrial levels and aim to stop it from rising above 1.5C. But the United Nations has warned that the planet is on course for a catastrophic 3C increase by the end of the century under current climate policies, despite efforts.
UN secretary-general António Guterres told delegates: “We are miles from the goals of the Paris Agreement and minutes to midnight for 1.5 degrees C. But it is not too late. We can, you can, prevent planetary crash and burn.”
But he warned that the world “cannot save a burning planet with a fire hose of fossil fuels,” with many countries accused of dragging their feet in switching to renewable energy. Mr Guterres told how humanity’s future was “hanging in the balance” as he urged conference delegates to act now.
COP28 is the first time that countries are conducting a “global stocktake” of progress made since the Paris agreement but hopes of a decisive breakthrough in the battle against global warming were low.
United Arab Emirates president Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed announced the establishment of a $30 billion (£24 billion) fund for global climate solutions that it hopes will lead to $250 billion (£198 billion) of investment by the end of the decade.
Dubbed ALTÉRRA, the fund will allocate $25 billion towards climate strategies and $5 billion specifically to encourage investment flows into the Global South, according to a statement by the COP28 Presidency.
The UK government pledged £1.6 billion for international climate change projects throughout the summit. That includes a £60 million contribution to a loss and damage fund for the world’s poorest countries worth a total of about £332 million. There were also hopes of progress on reducing deforestation and on cutting methane emissions.
The King’s speech was watched by the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron, with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, shadow foreign secretary David Lammy and shadow climate change secretary Ed Miliband also attending the summit.