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British RoyalsPrince Charles and Camilla

Prince Charles at the World Economic Forum: “the only limit is our willingness to act”

Prince of Wales
World Economic Forum Twitter Screen Grab/ Fair Use

The Prince of Wales has delivered a keynote speech about climate change at the World Economic Forum this afternoon, calling it a crisis largely of our own creation.

The World Economic Forum is held every year in Davos, Switzerland, attended by leaders in government, business, tech and other industries who come together to help create solutions to the world’s problems.

“I hate to tell you,” Prince Charles said, “We are in the midst of a crisis that is now, I hope, well understood.”

He called global warming, climate change, and “the devastating loss of biodiversity” the greatest threats that humanity has ever faced, “and one largely of our own creation.”

Prince Charles continued: “I have dedicated much of my life to the restoration of harmony between humanity, Nature and the environment, and to the encouragement of corporate social and environmental responsibility. Quite frankly, it has been a bit of an uphill struggle. But, now, it is time to take it to the next level. 

“In order to secure our future and to prosper, we need to evolve our economic model. Having been engaged in these issues since I suppose 1968, when I made my first speech on the environment, and having talked to countless experts across the globe over those decades, I have come to realize that it is not a lack of capital that is holding us back, but rather the way in which we deploy it. Therefore, to move forward, we need nothing short of a paradigm shift, one that inspires action at revolutionary levels and pace. With this in mind, I am delighted to be launching a Sustainable Markets Initiative, with the generous support of the World Economic Forum.”

The Sustainable Markets Initiative will help to put “people and planet at the heart of global value creation” by offering a “new systems-level framework which grounds markets in a higher purpose mission.”

Prince Charles continued: “The past decade has shown us just how quickly industry transformation can happen when you reimagine and re-engineer the business model – we need only look to mobile technology, electric vehicles, the space industry, e-commerce and online streaming for inspiration. Looking forward, new employment opportunities, entire new industries and markets rooted in sustainability are within our grasp, with the potential for unprecedented economic growth. 

“Changing our current trajectory will require bold and imaginative action, together with determination and decisive leadership.”

He also set out ten practical points to achieve sustainable markets:

  1. Shifting our default setting to ‘sustainable’
  2. Outlining responsible transition pathways to decarbonize and move to net zero
  3. Reimaging industries through the lens of sustainable markets
  4. Identifying game-changers and barriers to transition
  5. Reversing perverse subsidies and improving incentives for sustainable alternatives
  6. Investing in STEM, innovation and R&D
  7. Investing in nature as the true engine of our economy
  8. Adopting common metrics and standards
  9. Making the sustainable options the trusted and attainable options for consumers
  10. Collecting investments to investables using platforms that can rapidly scale solutions

The Prince said that he thought “that we are, in fact, far further ahead than we might think, making it critical that we leverage the vital work already underway,” and said that Sustainable Markets will be his chief focus in 2020.

“Beginning here at Davos, and throughout the year – and in order to identify game-changers, investments and barriers to transition – I will be convening a broad range of industry and issue roundtables including, but not limited to: aviation; water; carbon capture and storage; shipping; forestry; plastics; financing; digital technology; the bioeconomy; nature-based solutions; renewable energy; batteries, storage and electric vehicles; fisheries; integrated healthcare; cement; steel; traceability and labelling; and agriculture – at the end of which I shall probably be dead.

“So Ladies and Gentlemen, as we look to design and create sustainable markets and industries, these roundtables will bring together system innovators, investors and decision-makers to start designing and charting the course.”

Prince Charles said, “If there is one critical lesson we have to learn from this crisis it is that Nature, Ladies and Gentlemen, is not a separate asset class. Nature is, in fact, the life blood of our financial markets and, as such, we must – rapidly – re-align our own economy to mimic Nature’s economy and work in harmony with it.”

He finished with a look at why he’s made environmental causes a cornerstone of his public work, saying that: “Everything I have tried to do, and urge, over the past fifty years has been done with our children and grandchildren in mind, because I did not want to be accused by them of doing nothing except prevaricate and deny the problem. Now of course, they are accusing us of exactly that. Put yourselves in their position, Ladies and Gentlemen. We simply cannot waste any more time – the only limit is our willingness to act, and the time to act is now.”

Prince Charles’s speech can be read in full here.

Prince Charles also met with teenage climate change activist Greta Thunberg during his visit to the World Economic Forum.

Tomorrow, Prince Charles will travel to Israel to attend the World Holocaust Forum; and will undertake his first official visit to Israel and the Occupied Palestine Territories this week as well.

About author

Jess is a communications professional and freelance writer who lives in Halifax and has a passion for all things royal, particularly the British Royal Family.