Prince of Wales on climate crisis at World Economic Forum: “The time to act is now”

The Prince of Wales delivered a moving speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, yesterday, in which he announced the launch of his Sustainable Markets Initiative and Council. Prince Charles, drawing on decades of environmental activism, has formed the Council to spur the private sector towards adopting more planet-friendly business practices.

The Council was created in June 2019 with the support of the World Economic Forum, which works to facilitate cooperation between the private and public sectors.

Prince Charles speaks about the climate at Davos (Still from WEF video)

He also emphasised that sustainable and eco-friendly products and services must be affordable and easily accessible.

Prince Charles was inspired to return and speak at the Forum, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, by the idea of the next fifty years. The health of the planet and its inhabitants, he said, requires urgent planning and nothing less than a ‘paradigm shift’ in how the world does business.

“It’s not a lack of capital that’s holding us back from tackling these threats, but rather the way we deploy it,” he said. 

He continued with a powerful question: “What good is all that extra wealth in the world gained from business-as-usual except watch it burn in catastrophic conditions?”

He then outlined a ten point plan to transform industry. The full speech is available here. Specific actions include:

  • Shifting industry settings to a sustainable default
  • Decarbonising to net zero
  • Reimagining industries through a sustainability lens
  • Identifying game changers and barriers to transitions
  • Improving economic incentives for sustainable alternatives
  • Investing in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM)
  • Committing funds to initiatives the recognise nature is the true engine of the economy
  • Adopting a common metrics and standards system
  • Ensuring that sustainable options become the most trusted and equally accessible
  • Connecting investments to investibles that earn more revenue using fewer resources

The Prince cited examples of each across the financial, manufacturing, and energy sectors. Sprinkled throughout his speech were references to family, most notably to the Duke of Cambridge’s recently announced Earth Shot Prize, and to his grandchildren, Earth’s next generation of caretakers.

“Everything I have tried to do and urge over the last 50 years, has been done with our children or grandchildren in mind, because I did not want to be accused by them of doing nothing, except prevaricate and deny the problem.”

In his concluding remarks, the future King outlined his plans for 2020, during which he will use his formidable convening power to host a series of roundtable meetings and will invite gather organisations from across economic sectors and around the world. 

“Do we want to go down in history as the people who did nothing to bring the world back from the brink, in trying to restore the balance, when we could have done? I don’t want to. And just think for a moment – what good is all the extra wealth in the world, gained from “business as usual”, if you can do nothing with it except watch it burn in catastrophic conditions?

“This is why I need your help, your ingenuity and your practical skills to ensure that the private sector leads the world out of the approaching catastrophe into which we have engineered ourselves,” the Royal told delegates.

Prince Charles has also instructed his teams and organisations to not only work on these issues but to adopt more sustainable approaches to their business practices.

“The time to act is now,” he said.

After his speech the Prince met climate activist Greta Thunburg. The 17 year-old Nobel Peace Prize nominee delivered her own address yesterday.

The Prince of Wales met with Greta Thunberg, and they chatted about the climate emergency (Clarence House)

[Image: PoW and GT/Clarence House Insta]

She’s remarkable, she represents one of the main reasons why I’ve been trying to make all this effort all these years,” Charles said of Thunberg. “I’ve always worried about the fact that so often, in terms of humanity, we leave things too late so you have to hit a brick wall and experience a catastrophe before anything happens.”

The Prince last spoke at Davos in 1992, almost 30 years ago. Today he arrived at the venue in an electric Jaguar I-Pace.

Prince Charles took a Jaguar i-pace to the WEF in Davos (Clarence House)

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