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Prince Charles has warned world leaders they have a “dangerously narrow window of opportunity” to avoid climate catastrophe and put the planet on a more sustainable path.
In a video message to the Saudi Green Initiative Forum in Riyadh, and just a week before the Cop26 summit in Glasgow, the Prince of Wales said nations must “heed the message” from scientists to achieve the Paris Agreement goal of capping global warming at no more than 1.5C.
The future king also encouraged leaders in the Middle East to make the most of “huge potential” for renewable energy projects to ward off the worst impacts of the climate crisis.
Addressing the forum, Prince Charles said he found it “enormously encouraging” to see the oil-rich kingdom had committed to diversifying its energy mix.
Pointing out that some parts of the Middle East were 1C to 1.5C warmer than pre-industrial times, he said: “These higher temperatures are likely to have, or are already having, a profound impact on the people and ecology of the region.”
“There is also a risk that increasing temperatures will drive the need for greater supplies of water and energy,” he added.
“As I have been trying to stress for many years, the region has huge potential for renewable energy – including solar power, wind, green hydrogen and carbon capture use and storage. These industries can drive economic growth and increase green job opportunities.”
The prince’s comments came as Saudi Arabia's crown prince said on Saturday that the world’s top oil exporter aims to reach net zero emissions of greenhouse gases – mostly produced by burning fossil fuels – by 2060, adding that it would double the emissions cuts it plans to achieve by 2030.
Earlier this year, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman reaffirmed the country’s environmental commitments, including renewables making up 50 per cent of the kingdom’s electricity by 2030 and the planting of 50 billion trees across the Middle East.
Prince Charles hailed the tree-planting promise and said Saudi Arabia had a “critically important” role in leading the region’s transition to renewables.
He told Middle East leaders at the forum: “If I understand it correctly, the Quran teaches that God appoints us his stewards of the earth, which explains the old nomadic saying, ‘The best of all mosques is nature herself’.
“It is therefore my greatest hope, inshallah [God willing], that we can take the ambitions and practical solutions of today’s conference to the G20 in Rome and then to Cop26 in Glasgow, and so keep true to our sacred responsibility – honouring the limits of nature’s abundance.”
The prince said Cop26 was a chance for world leaders to expand on their plans to reduce carbon emissions and move further on a green transition after the Covid pandemic.
“We now have a dangerously narrow window of opportunity in which to accelerate a green recovery, while laying the foundations for a sustainable future,” he said.
Urging leaders to come up with “ambitious” plans to reach net zero emissions by 2050, he said: “The experts are telling policy makers that Cop26 must pursue ambitious, nationally determined contributions that have clear baselines, and net zero by 2050.”
Charles added: “We simply must heed this message and above all consider the kind of future existence that we are bequeathing to our grandchildren and our children’s children.”