Reshape economy to fight climate crisis, says Prince Charles
The Prince of Wales has urged business and political leaders at Davos to embrace a radical reshaping of economies and markets in order to tackle the climate crisis.
In a special address at the World Economic Forum on Wednesday, Charles outlined a 10-point plan to help the global economy become more sustainable including the imposition of green taxes and investing in environmentally friendly technologies.
He argued that taxes, regulations and policies could all be changed, as part of a drive to reverse environmentally damaging subsidies such as financial assistance for the fossil fuel industry. He also cited the “polluter pays” principle that requires those who create environmental damage to pay for the clean-up.
“In order to secure our future and prosper, we need to evolve our economic model,” the Prince told an audience of politicians and business and civic leaders at Davos.
“Do we want to go down in history as the people who did nothing to bring the world back from the brink in time to restore the balance, when we could have done?”
Charles, who is supported financially by the £1bn Duchy of Cornwall, made a direct challenge to some of the world’s wealthiest people gathered at the Swiss ski resort to think about more than money.
“What good is all the extra wealth in the world gained from business as usual if you can do nothing with it except watch it burn in catastrophic conditions?” he said.
Charles, who also met the climate activist Greta Thunberg at the summit, urged the private sector to use its ingenuity and practical skills to help lead the world out of a climate calamity. “The only limit is our willingness to act and the time to act is now.”
The prince was speaking after launching an initiative, the Sustainable Markets Initiative and Council. His 10 proposals included the rapid decarbonisation of businesses, driving investment in new environmentally friendly technologies and helping consumers to make sustainable choices.
Climate change and biodiversity loss are the greatest threats humanity has ever faced, he warned, adding that capital needs to be properly deployed in order to tackle these threats.
The prince said global consumers could make markets sustainable, but could not make sustainable choices if these options were not clearly laid before them.
Charles also warned that being socially and environmentally conscious cannot be an option for wealthier people only. Markets needed to change, so that prices actually reflected the environmental as well as economic costs.
“If all the true costs are taken into account, being socially and environmentally responsible should be the least expensive option because it leaves the smallest footprint behind,” he argued, implicitly calling for subsidies and tax changes.
Charles’s intervention comes nearly 30 years after he last spoke at the World Economic Forum, when he had already begun campaigning on environmental issues and corporate responsibility. He joked on Wednesday that it had been “an uphill struggle” trying to generate support but he believed the world was now at a turning point.
The Prince of Wales arrived in an electric car – rather than the helicopter option favoured by some, such as Donald Trump. However, he reportedly travelled to Switzerland by private jet, a reminder of the gap between the goals outlined at the forum this week and the global elite’s behaviour.
Environmental issues and the climate emergency have taken centre stage at Davos this year, with a stream of business leaders and politicians expressing concerns and signing up to initiatives to promote sustainability and climate action.
But the meeting also exposed the split between the US and Europe on the issue, with Trump attacking “prophets of doom” in a speech heavily criticised by environmentalists.
Prince Charles’s 10-point plan for a sustainable economy
1) Put nature and the protection of nature’s capital at the heart of operations.
2) Create responsible pathways to decarbonise to reach net zero, and for governments and businesses to set a clear plan for how they will decarbonise.
3) Reimagine industries through the lens of sustainable markets.
4) Identify game-changing technologies that can speed up the creation of a sustainable economy and eliminate barriers to change.
5) Remove subsidies that prevent the economy from becoming more sustainable, and set taxes, policies and regulations in a way that catalyses sustainable markets.
6) Invest in science, technology, engineering and maths skills, and in research and development, to help bring emerging technologies to market.
7) Invest in nature as an economic driver of growth.
8) Agree on unified metrics for measuring environmental, social and governance standards, to provide transparency to company supply chains.
9) Make it easier for consumers to see which products are ethical and sustainable.
10) Realign investing so it can support sustainability. This would direct trillions of pounds in pension funds, sovereign wealth funds into environmentally responsible projects that offer long-term value and rate of return.
This article first appeared on the Guardian
edie is part of the Guardian Environment Network