Prince Charles warns of 'perfect storm' should Paris climate talks flop

2015-11-27 08:04
Britain's Prince Charles speaks during the Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference at Lancaster House in London. (John Stillwell, AFP)

Britain's Prince Charles speaks during the Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference at Lancaster House in London. (John Stillwell, AFP)

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Valletta - Prince Charles warned on Thursday that if international leaders fail to clinch a deal on climate change at talks in Paris next week, it would leave mankind facing a "perfect storm".

"This meeting falls at a very important, indeed critical moment for the future of mankind and our planet," he said in a speech at the Commonwealth summit in Malta.

"Countless concerned people around the world" are banking on global leaders to come up with an ambitious long-term goal for the rapid reduction of carbon emissions, he said, as Commonwealth leaders began to arrive on the rain-lashed Mediterranean island.

"We face an unprecedented set of interlocking challenges, all of which are creeping up on us in the shape of perfect storm," he added, from unsustainable population growth to migration, rapid globalisation, and social economic and energy insecurity.

The Commonwealth family of 53 nations is gathering in Malta for three days of talks from Friday with a focus on reaching agreements that will open doors for wider deals at the COP21 climate talks in Paris, which begin on Monday.

Queen Elizabeth II, the head of the Commonwealth, is making a state visit to Malta to coincide with the summit, supported by her husband Prince Philip, their eldest son Charles and his wife Camilla.


The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting sees countries such as Britain, Canada, India and South Africa sit down on equal terms with tiny Caribbean island nations and developing microstates.

"The beauty of the Commonwealth is that its diversity makes it into a prototype or microcosm of the whole world," its Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma said.

Born out of the British empire, the Commonwealth of Nations brings together around a quarter of the world's countries and a third of its population.

"The Commonwealth reflects the tensions that exist because around the same table you have some of the most developed and vulnerable economies in the world," said Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, who is hosting the summit.

"Most other groupings either have a region or an economic standing in common."

Muscat said he was targeting strong outcomes rooted in "realism" as the organisation tackles issues of "direct concern", namely climate change, extremism, trade and migration issues.

On climate change, Sharma said the summit's final statement should have a "strong political component" and would also "indicate measures which the Commonwealth is going to undertake, particularly for small and vulnerable states".

"It's a larger question of moral hazard and of an ethical imperative," he explained.

"Small states that have contributed most negligibly to the carbon footprint of the world would be the first to be affected" by the consequences of global warming.

"We will come up with ideas of how to build capacities and access finance."

'Trillions of dollars'

Prince Charles said the influence of the Commonwealth should not be underestimated, but he insisted deals made here would mean little if the private sector could not be persuaded to get behind the climate change fight and provide financial aid.

"If there is one thing other than taxes and death of which we can be certain, it is that there is never going to be enough public money to implement the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) or Paris agreement," he said.

"Billions of dollars will need to become trillions of dollars," he insisted, with an "estimated 90 trillion dollars needed for infrastructure development alone over the next 15 years, in order to have any hope of keeping us in a world only 2°C warmer".

World leaders including French President Francois Hollande and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon were expected to join the climate debate talks in Valletta on Friday, fine-tuning details before the UN summit kick-off on Monday.

The outcome of the Paris talks would "determine the survival of our species and all those who share this precious planet with us," Charles said.

Read more on:    us  |  climate change

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