The Prince of Wales has described climate change and sustainable development agreements expected at major summits this year as a “Magna Carta” for the planet.
His Royal Highness has called on world leaders to seize the “crucial opportunity” afforded by the summits in 2015 to set an ambitious framework governing a range of areas from poverty and climate change to disaster risk reduction.
The Prince’s comments were made as he addressed The Prince of Wales’ International Sustainability Unit meeting on forests, climate change and development in central London.
He also mentioned his unborn grandchild, urging delegates not to earn the “condemnation of our grandchildren” for failing to safeguard their future.
He added: “With a new grandchild on its way into this increasingly uncertain world. I certainly do not.”
The Prince told delegates, who included Ed Davey, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary: "In the 800th anniversary year of the Magna Carta, perhaps this year’s agreement of the new Sustainable Development Goals and a new climate agreement in Paris should be seen as a new ‘Magna Carta for the Earth, and humanity’s relationship with it’.
“It is worth remembering that two years after the agreement of the Magna Carta, in the year 1217, a Charter of the Forest was also signed, under King Henry III, setting out the rights, privileges and uses of forest land for the people of this country.
“Some things really are timeless. Even after almost 800 years, the new agreements on climate change and sustainable development goals still need to have forests and sustainable land use at their heart.”
In September the Special Summit on Sustainable Development will be held at the UN headquarters in New York where world leaders are expected to agree to a new development agenda, including a set of sustainable development goals, expected to provide a blueprint for action until 2030.
Three months later positive climate change agreements are also expected to be reached by countries attending the UN climate conference in Paris.
The Prince, who has been an environmental leader for more than four decades, added: "It is clear to me, as I hope it is to all of you, that this year provides an absolutely crucial opportunity – if not the last chance before we end up in an irreversible situation – for the international community to establish a new set of interlocking, coherent and ambitious frameworks governing human development, poverty, disaster risk reduction, the natural environment and climate change.
“We could, and should, see an agenda set for the coming decades that is capable of transforming the prospects for humanity by improving and nurturing the state of the planet upon which we all depend.”
The Prince has been a strong advocate of taking action to protect the environment for many years.
In 2007 he set up the Prince’s Rainforest Group to find a solution to save the world’s threatened forests. He addressed a UN international climate summit in Copenhagen in 2009 and the following year he gave a keynote speech to the Oslo Climate and Forest Conference.
The Prince’s Rainforests Project is now part of the International Sustainability Unit, an organisation created by the Prince of Wales to help build consensus on how to develop the durable solutions required to meet the challenges of climate change and natural resource depletion.
Brendan Cox, director of policy at Save the Children and spokesman for campaigning initiative action/2015, said: "It’s not often you talk about the Prince of Wales, Shakira and Matt Damon in the same breath, but the scale of the change possible in 2015 is creating a unique campaigning coalition.
“Action/2015 launched days ago and is already garnering support from around the world and it’s great to have the Prince of Wales join that grassroots movement.”
Read an article by Tony Juniper for the Huffington Post on why we need forests for the future.