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Prince Charles says climate change 'greatest threat ever' as he meets Greta Thunberg

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK

Prince Charles has declared climate change and the issues it causes “the greatest threats humanity has ever faced.”

Addressing world leaders at a conference in Davos, the Prince of Wales said: “We are in the midst of a crisis that is now I hope well understood.

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

Britain's Prince Charles delivers a special address during the 50th World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, January 22, 2020. Photo: REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

The comments came during a keynote speech at the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. The Prince used his address to launch a new project aimed at putting sustainability at the heart of global financial markets.

“We need to evolve our economic model,” Prince Charles said. “It is not a lack of capital that is holding us back but rather the way in which we deploy it. To move forward, we need nothing short of a paradigm shift.”

The Queen’s son set out ten principles aimed at “putting people and planet at the heart of value creation”, including funding for cutting edge research, clear plans for decarbonisation across the world, and investing in nature.

Prince Charles speaks with Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of World Economic Forum, before his special address in Davos on January 22, 2020. Photo: REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Prince Charles also called for an end to what he called “perverse” subsidies given to polluting industries.

“It is time to level the playing field and think about how we properly deploy taxes, policies and regulation in a way that catalyses sustainable markets,” he said. “For many years I’ve tried to encourage the adoption of the polluter pays principle.”

Prince Charles was addressing over 3,000 top business leaders and politicians from around the world. Attendees of this year’s conference include US President Donald Trump, UK Chancellor Sajid Javid, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, and Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

“I’ve dedicated much of my life of the restoration of harmony between humanity, nature, and the environment and to the encouragement of corporate social and environmental responsibility,” the Prince told the audience.

“Quite frankly it has been a bit of an uphill struggle.”

The Prince met teenage environmental campaigner Greta Thunberg on the sidelines of the event. Thunberg on Tuesday delivered a searing speech at Davos accusing world leaders of “giving up” on environmental promises.

The Prince of Wales meeting climate activist Greta Thunberg after he gave a speech to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Photo: PA/Clarence House

Prince Charles struck a more optimistic tone, while emphasising that urgent reform was needed.

“The past decade has shown us just how quickly industry transformation can happen when you re-engineer the economic model,” the Royal said.

“New employment opportunities, entire new industries and markets rooted in sustainability are within our grasp.”

He listed advances made in fields such as solar energy, wood processing, and sustainable investing.

“We are in fact far further ahead than we might think, making it critical that we leverage the vital work already under way,” the Prince said. “In nearly every industry we are seeing progress that we can build on.”

The Prince was visiting the WEF’s conference in Davos for the first time in 30 years and arrived at the event in a fully electric Jaguar, driven from the Swiss town of St. Gallen.

“After nearly 50 years of trying to champion this cause, I cannot help feeling that finally we are ready to change our trajectory,” he told the audience.

“Do we want to go down in history as the people who did nothing to bring the world back from the brink? I do not want to.”

Prince Charles delivers a special address during the 50th World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, January 22, 2020. Photo: REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

The ongoing climate crisis is one of the biggest themes of this year’s Davos conference. WEF said ahead of the gathering that all the biggest current threats to the world are environment-linked and the topic of sustainability has come up frequently in speeches and on panels.

“If there is one critical lesson we have to learn from this crisis, it is that nature is not a separate asset class,” Prince Charles said. “Nature is in fact the lifeblood of our financial markets. As such, we must rapidly realign our own economy to mimic nature’s economy and work in harmony with it.

“We all know the problem and increasingly we agree on the direction. 2020 is the time for solutions and practical action.”