The Prince of Wales will warn the climate crisis is “rapidly becoming a comprehensive catastrophe that will dwarf the impact of the coronavirus pandemic”.
The stark message is part of a keynote speech that Prince Charles has recorded for the opening event of a virtual climate summit starting on Monday.
In his speech, he will say: “Without swift and immediate action, at an unprecedented pace and scale, we will miss the window of opportunity to ‘reset’ for… a more sustainable and inclusive future.
“In other words, the global pandemic is a wake-up call we cannot ignore…[the environmental] crisis has been with us for far too many years – decried, denigrated and denied. It is now rapidly becoming a comprehensive catastrophe that will dwarf the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.”
Climate Week NYC is described as the only major international climate summit happening this year.
Run by international non-profit the Climate Group, it’s hoping to bring together global leaders from business, government and philanthropic sectors to make sure that conversations and action on climate change continue in spite of the pandemic.
A number of major climate events and conferences had to be cancelled this year because of COVID-19, including the United Nations climate conference Cop26, which was due to take place in Glasgow in Scotland in November and has been rescheduled for next year.
This week, world leaders will gather online for the 75th United Nations General Assembly, where both the pandemic and environmental issues will feature in their discussions of global challenges.
To coincide with the UNGA, Oxfam has released a new report to highlight how much the wealthiest people on the planet have been the heaviest polluters.
It found that in the 25 years between 1990 and 2015 the total amount of carbon in the atmosphere doubled and that over half of that was added by the richest 10% of people on the planet.
Tim Gore from Oxfam told Sky News he believes governments are starting to realise that climate policy can’t be treated separately from issues like public health and social inequality.
He said: “We don’t need to have climate policy making in one box and concerns about public health in another, or biodiversity which is another major concern that is being addressed at the United Nations General Assembly this week.”
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He added: “These are all part of a common interlinked set of challenges that governments need to grapple with and they need the same policies to grapple with them all.
“A greener economy is one that will also be better for public health with cleaner air. We’ve seen of course the respiratory problems that come with polluted air particularly in cities have been exposed by the Covid crisis.”
Speaking to Sky News at the end of lockdown, Prince Charles he felt the pandemic had forced us to refocus our attention on the need to tackle the climate crisis and make sure protecting the planet was at the centre of the economic recovery in the post-Covid world.
He said: “It’s only catastophes which concentrate the mind which means for once there might be some real impetus to tackle all the things which have been pushed to one side because people have said it’s irrelevant.”
His speech for Climate Week NYC will be streamed on the summit website at 3pm on Monday.