Prince calls for ' wartime response' on climate change

Posted: 15 February 2008

A call by the Prince of Wales, in a speech at the European Parliament, for urgent action on climate change - comparable to going on a war-footing - has been warmly welcomed by environmental campaigners.

Prince Charles addresses European Parliament
Prince Charles addresses European Parliament
It is essential, he said, that governments act now to develop a low-carbon economic and political framework, if the world is to successfully combat the threat. He also called for countries to be paid to protect the planet's forests, which he said were a "vital global utility." Friends of the Earth director Tony Juniper said: "The Prince of Wales has today raised issues of urgent importance that demand immediate political action. We are fast drifting towards a climatic disaster that could lead to humanitarian catastrophe, economic recession and dramatic environmental change. And while the resources and ingenuity to tackle climate change exist, we still lack the political will to make real changes to how we live, meet our needs and run our economies. Climate change is the biggest threat the planet faces; urgent action, similar to being on a war-footing, is now required to tackle it.

"The EU and other governments must respond by placing climate change at the heart of policy-making. This will give businesses the certainty that they need to invest in a low-carbon economy, and make it cheaper and easier for people to go green."

In his speech the Prince Charles said: "In the last few months we have learnt that the North Polar ice cap is melting so fast that some scientists are predicting that in seven years it will completely disappear in Summer. Others think it will take a little longer. But the mere fact that such a development is conceivable at all is, you would have thought, yet another wake up call as we sleepwalk our way towards the edge of catastrophe."

War footing

Calling for urgent action, comparable with being put on a war-footing, he said: "If military policy has long been based on the dictum that we should be prepared for the worst case, should it be so different when the security is that of the planet and our long term future?"

"We cannot be anything less than courageous and revolutionary in our approach to tackling climate change. If we are not, the result will be catastrophe for all of us, but with the poorest in our world hit hardest of all. In this sense, it is surely comparable to war. The question is do we, as a world community, have the resolve to wage it?"

Recognizing the need for governments to take a lead by developing a low-carbon political and economic framework, he said: "I can tell you that there is a genuine determination amongst many companies to show real leadership on climate change. But what many of them have told me is that while a market-based approach can influence behavioural change, up to a point, these mechanisms cannot be expected to deliver solutions by themselves. They tell me that a proper framework is required, with governments setting consistent long-term policies and providing responsible and equitable regulation."

Launching a new initiative to tackle tropical deforestation by mobilizing the financial resources needed to pay developing countries to protect globally important national assets, he said: "The problem for too many of us is that deforestation is out of sight and out of mind. The simple fact is that if we do not pay the countries who are the custodians of this vital global utility for the essential services they provide the forests will continue to be cut down and global warming will continue to accelerate. So this problem isn't someone else's that will have to be addressed in the future. It is ours and it must be addressed now. We must start to pay for the services that these great forests provide to us."