Page last updated at 18:51 GMT, Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Prince warns planet at 'point of crisis'

The Prince of Wales arriving at Copenhagen airport
The prince arrived at Copenhagen airport to make a speech

The Prince of Wales has told delegates at the UN climate summit that the "eyes of the world" are upon them and they have the power to "write our future".

He said the planet had reached a "point of crisis" and urged leaders to "listen to the cries" of those already suffering from climate change.

The prince spoke as the Copenhagen gathering approached its climax.

Earlier, a senior UN official said progress was being made but that there had not been enough.

High-level talks at the UN climate summit have opened, with UN chief Ban Ki-moon telling nations to "seal a deal" on climate change.

Delegates from 192 countries have been poring over the details of a new draft text, ahead of the start of the high-level segment.

Two years ago, at the UN climate talks held in Bali, governments agreed to start work on a new global agreement.

The Copenhagen talks mark the end of that two-year period.

As Prime Minister Gordon Brown set off for Copenhagen on Tuesday, he said the outcome of climate change talks "hung in the balance".

Mr Brown was originally due to arrive in Copenhagen on Friday, but brought it forward by two days in order to add momentum to the drive for a political deal.

About 120 heads of state and government are due to attend the summit's final session on Friday.

'Historic moment'

Prince Charles, who was invited by the Danish government to make the keynote speech at the opening ceremony on Tuesday, said the summit was a "historic moment".

He said he appreciated many delegates would be "profoundly weary" from "negotiating the unbelievably complex details of a potential agreement for a very, very long time".

For when it comes to the air we breathe and the water we drink, there are no national boundaries

But he said the "grim reality" was the world "only had seven years before we [lose] the levers of control".

"Just as mankind had the power to push the world to the brink so, too, do we have the power to bring it back into balance.

"You have been called to positions of responsibility at this critical time.

"The eyes of the world are upon you and it is no understatement to say that, with your signatures, you can write our future," he said.

The prince, who has campaigned on environmental issues for years, called for unity.

"When it comes to the air we breathe and the water we drink, there are no national boundaries," he said.

"We all depend on each other - and, crucially, on each other's actions - for our weather, our food, our water and our energy."

He warned a partial solution was "no solution at all" and called for an "inclusive" and "comprehensive" approach that "strengthened the resilience of our ecosystems."

"Crucially, it must be embraced by the public, private and NGO sectors, as well as by local communities and indigenous people, while also encouraging individual responsibility," he said.


It was easy to focus on worst-case scenarios, he said, but he appealed to delegates to share in a vision of a "healthier, safer and more sustainable, economically robust world".

Man's future could only be assured if people found ways of living as part of, rather than apart from, nature, he said.

As our planet's life-support system begins to fail and our survival as a species is brought into question, remember that our children and grandchildren will ask not what our generation said, but what it did

The prince warned climate change was a "risk-multiplier" which had the potential to take other critical global issues and "transform their severity into a cataclysm".

"Reducing poverty, increasing food production, combating terrorism and sustaining economic development are all vital priorities, but it is increasingly clear how rapid climate change will make them even more difficult to address," he said.

The prince also spoke about the work carried out by his Rainforests Project - set up two years ago - and how "genuinely sustainable agriculture" empowers local communities and farmers.

He said businesses were increasingly committed to acting in a sustainable way and it was important to "fully engage the private sector".

The prince concluded with the legacy that would be left behind for future generations.

"As our planet's life-support system begins to fail and our very survival as a species is brought into question, remember that our children and grandchildren will ask not what our generation said, but what it did.

"Let us give an answer, then, of which we can be proud."

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