King Charles warns dangers of climate change 'no longer distant risks' in address to COP28

The King has said 'the earth does not belong to us' in a speech on the second day of the COP28 summit in Dubai, ITV News Deputy Political Editor Anushka Asthana reports.

King Charles has warned the world is "dreadfully off track" in reaching key climate goals as he addressed global leaders at the COP28 climate summit on Friday.

The climate champion-king spoke about the need for urgent action to mitigate the climate emergency, saying "the dangers are no longer distant risks".

He told delegates in his opening address at the World Climate Action Summit at COP28, including Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and India's prime minister Narendra Modi, that in 2050 "our grandchildren won't be asking what we said, they will be living with the consequences of what we did or didn't do".

The monarch told heads of state, heads of government and business and climate delegates at Expo City Dubai that nature was being taken into "dangerous, uncharted territory" by human activity, and called for "nature-positive" change.

The King warned the world remains 'dreadfully far off track' in key climate targets in an opening address at COP28 in Dubai. Credit: AP

Charles pointed to repeated cyclones seen in island nations, wildfires across Europe and unprecedented floods in Asia as some of many clear signs of ongoing climate change.

“Records are now being broken so often that we are, perhaps, becoming immune to what they are really telling us," he said.

“When we see the news that this last Northern Hemisphere summer, for instance, was the warmest global average temperature on record, we need to pause to process what this actually means: we are taking the natural world outside balanced norms and limits, and into dangerous, uncharted territory.

King Charles speaks to Rishi Sunak as they attend the opening ceremony of the World Climate Action Summit at COP28. Credit: PA

“We are carrying out a vast, frightening experiment of changing every ecological condition, all at once, at a pace that far outstrips nature’s ability to cope."

COP28 will be the first time that countries will conduct a "global stocktake" of progress made since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015, although it is expected that it will not produce a positive result.

Under the Paris Agreement, states agreed to limit the average global temperature rise to 2C above pre-industrial levels and aim to stop it from rising above 1.5C.

But the United Nations has warned that the planet is on course for a catastrophic 3C increase by the end of the century under current climate policies, despite efforts.

"I have spent a large proportion of my life trying to warn of the existential threats facing us over global warming, climate change and biodiversity loss," the King told leaders.

Everything you need to know about COP28

What is COP? When and where will it take place?

Each year, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meets at what is called the Conference of the Parties - abbreviated as COP - to discuss the world's progress on climate change and how to tackle it.

The conference sees representatives from almost 200 countries come together to commit to reducing emissions and stopping dangerous levels of global warming.

The first meeting was held in Berlin in 1995. It came after a mass United Nations treaty aiming to reduce greenhouse gases came into force in 1992. The treaty was signed by 196 "parties" or countries - a near-universal membership.

Since then, a COP meeting has taken place annually, apart from in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

COP28 is the 28th summit of its kind which will be held in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) from November 30 to December 12.

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Who is going?

Leaders of the 198 countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) - a treaty that came into force in 1994 - are invited to the summit.

These are some of the world leaders that will be attending COP27:

  • UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is going to the conference. His attendance will likely be scrutinised after he recently announced measures that delay and water down the government's plans to achieve Net Zero.

  • The leaders of three of the world's biggest carbon emitters, the US, China and Russia, will not be attending.

  • US President Joe Biden is instead sending John Kerry, the special envoy for climate change, with his team. Mr Kerry suggested negotiations around the conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine were taking up much of the president's time. The Chinese envoy for climate change, Xie Zhenhua, is also expected to attend.

  • After missing last year's summit, King Charles III, a staunch advocate for the environment, will be attending, as well as Pope Francis.

  • The UAE sparked outrage when it invites Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to the event, amid concerns over human rights and environmental abuses. But it has not yet been confirmed if he will attend.

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He continued: "All these decades later, and despite all the attention, there is 30% more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now than there was back then, and almost 40% more methane.

"Some important progress has been made, but it worries me greatly that we remain so dreadfully far off track as the global stocktake report demonstrates so graphically." He added: "I pray with all my heart that COP28 will be another critical turning point towards genuine transformational action at a time when, already, as scientists have been warning for so long, we are seeing alarming tipping points being reached."

Charles tasked world leaders to answer five key questions during the climate summit, adding that "the hope of the world" rests on decisions taken over the coming days.

King Charles joins leaders and delegate for a family photo during a Business and Philanthropy Climate Forum during the COP28 summit. Credit: PA

The King's address was his first at the conference as King, having previously opened COP26 in Glasgow in 2021 and COP21 in Paris in 2015.

Closing his speech, he added: "The Earth does not belong to us, we belong to the Earth."

The speech was watched by prime minister Rishi Sunak and foreign secretary Lord Cameron, with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, shadow foreign secretary David Lammy and shadow climate change secretary Ed Miliband also attending the summit.

Before his opening address, the King also held bilateral talks with the Amir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, and the president of Israel, Isaac Herzog.

His appearance at the climate summit comes amid controversy over the naming in a book of two members of the royal family alleged to have raised “concerns” about the skin colour of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s son.

COP28 began on Thursday and runs until December 12, with the UK government pledging $1.6 billion for international climate change projects throughout the summit.

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