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Charles meets Greta Thunberg after warning ‘the time to act is now’ on climate

By Laura Elston, Tony Jones and Aine Fox, PA

The Prince of Wales has described teenage activist Greta Thunberg as “remarkable”, after telling world leaders “we simply cannot waste any more time” in the battle to save the planet.

In a keynote address at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Charles urged government and business chiefs to help the private sector lead “the world out of the approaching catastrophe”.

The prince, who has long been known for his environmental campaigning, was pictured meeting and shaking hands with 17-year-old Greta following his passionate address.

In an interview with CNN the heir to the throne praised the teenage campaigner: “Well she’s remarkable, she represents one of the main reasons why I’ve been trying to make all this effort all of these years, because, as I said, I didn’t want my grandchildren to accuse me of not not doing something about this in time.

“And of course there they are, all her generation, almost my grandchildren if you know what I mean, all desperate because not nearly enough has happened – we’ve left it so late.

“So, I’ve always worried about the fact so often, in terms of humanity, we leave everything so late – so you have to hit a brick wall and experience a catastrophe before anything happens.”

Greta said as they met in front of a mass of flashing cameras: “I guess you’re very used to this.”

The prince replied: “This has taken many years to get used to.”

Greta added: “I’m still not used to it.”

Charles told leaders gathered at the Forum: “Ladies and gentleman, you all have a seat at the table as this must be the year that we put ourselves on the right track.”

He added: “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.

“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.”

He added: “We simply cannot waste any more time. The only limit is our willingness to act. The time to act is now.”

Charles travelled from St Gallen in Switzerland to Davos in a fully electric Jaguar I-Pace, rather than using a helicopter.

He warned the world is in the midst of a crisis that “is now I hope well understood”.

He added: “Global warning, climate change and the devastating loss of biodiversity are the greatest threats humanity has ever faced.”

He described his dedication to encouraging corporate, social and environmental responsibility as an “uphill struggle”.

But he added: “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.”

The prince used his speech to launch a new Sustainable Markets Initiative to help financial markets become more sustainable.

He outlined 10 practical actions to drive the approach, including identifying game-changers and barriers to transition and investing in Stem (science, technology, engineering, and maths) and innovation, adding this included “AI, where that does not seek to challenge or replace unique human characteristics and intuition”.

Charles, on a positive note, said the world was “further ahead than we might think” in achieving the goal of a profitable but sustainable future, citing developments such as plans for green engines for ships and opportunities to develop commercially viable, hydrogen-powered and electric aircraft within the decade.

The prince, who is facing his youngest son the Duke of Sussex quitting royal life, took the opportunity to praise his eldest, the Duke of Cambridge, for his environmental work.

“Critically, we must foster innovation – and here, if you will allow me, I would like to acknowledge the new Earthshot initiative of my son, the Duke of Cambridge, which seems to me to extol the sort of horizon-lifting approach we need in order to give us hope,” he said.