King Charles shrugged off a royal racism storm that threatened to overshadow his Cop28 speech, delivering an urgent message to world leaders: “The Earth does not belong to us, we belong to the Earth.”
Echoing The Independent’s call for action to turn the tide of climate change before it is too late, he told delegates at the Dubai eco-conference that nations must work together to preserve our planet for generations to come.
“I pray Cop28 will be a critical tipping point towards genuine action,” Charles said, ignoring the racism row that continues to rumble on in the wake of royal author Omid Scobie’s palace exposé, Endgame.
The row was reignited when a Dutch translation of the book identified Charles and the Princess of Wales as the two senior royals who allegedly raised “concerns” about the skin colour of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s son.
An apparent “translation error” meant the Dutch versions were dramatically pulled from shelves and pulped at the eleventh hour, but not before the names began circulating on social media.
Neither the Sussexes nor Buckingham Palace has commented on the latest furore, but The Independent understands the palace is “considering all options”.
Delivering the keynote speech on day two of the summit, Charles warned world leaders they needed to act now “to stem the growing toll of its most vulnerable victims”.
He said countries were “dreadfully far off track” on key climate targets and claimed the dangers – wildfires across Europe, cyclones ripping through island nations and unpreceded floods in Asia – were “no longer distant risks”.
And despite some progress, he said “transformational action” was needed as he addressed the heads of government and businesses from across the globe.
The call to arms represents a crowning achievement for a monarch who has long fought in the trenches of climate activism.
Charles is the only foreign head of state invited to speak at the climate action meeting in recognition of his life’s work. He also opened Cop26 in Glasgow in 2021 and Cop21 in Paris in 2015.
But this year’s address came as the United Nations warned that the planet is on course for a catastrophic 3C increase in average global temperature by the end of the century.
The King said: “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.
“Despite all the attention, there is 30 per cent more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now than there was back then, and almost 40 per cent 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.”
Despite the clarity of the message, the King did cause some raised eyebrows by wearing a distinctive tie patterned with the Greek flag, which some speculated was a nod to the recent government spat with Athens over the Elgin marbles.
However, with the King’s father born in Greece, Buckingham Palace insisted the colours were random.
With world leaders including France’s Emmanuel Macron, India’s Narendra Modi and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan watching, the King said that trillions of dollars will be needed to drive the transformation across all facets of society required to tackle the climate crisis and that public finance alone “will never be sufficient”.
He concluded: “If we act together to safeguard our planet, the welfare of our people will surely follow. The Earth does not belong to us, we belong to the Earth.”
But the speech was not quite enough to drown out the racism debate playing out at home.
Charles will soon return to the UK to face the growing storm reignited by Mr Scobie’s book.
The row was initially sparked in the wake of a bombshell interview of Harry and Meghan by Oprah Winfrey in 2021, where they alleged an unidentified member of the monarchy had raised “concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born”.
In the interview, Meghan said a member of the royal family – but not Queen Elizabeth II or her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh – had raised “concerns” over the skin colour of Archie, but fell short of naming them, stating it “would be very damaging to them”.
Mr Scobie has since brushed off the issue and insisted the names were never included in his own English version despite speculation that their inclusion had been a stunt designed to boost sales. A “full investigation” has been launched into what happened, Mr Scobie insists.
Nonetheless, the monarchy has suffered “long-lasting reputational damage” one royal commentator has said.
Joe Little of Majesty magazine said: “The allegations, true or untrue, will clearly put doubt in the minds of people who are aware of the individuals who have been named. That can’t be helpful in any shape or form.
“But mud sticks, once the shadow of doubt is there it never really goes away, and it’s got to impact not only on the individuals but also the institution as a whole – it’s a long-lasting reputational damage.”
Meanwhile, the second day of the summit also saw:
- The United Arab Emirates announce a $30bn climate fund aimed at spurring $250bn in investments this decade towards climate projects in developing countries
- Negative attention for Cop27 hero President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, after Brazil said it intends to join the oil group, Opec+
- The Israel-Hamas conflict raise tensions during world leaders’ day; Jordan’s King Abdullah linked the climate crisis with the war in Gaza while Israel’s president Isaac Herzog did not make his scheduled speech
- The UAE’s Cop28 presidency issue a document calling for a “phase-down” of fossil fuels
More than 100 countries signed a statement demanding the more ambitious “phase-out” of fossil fuels by the end of the conference.
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