In a speech to the Sustainable Growth 2021 Conference, hosted by Cornwall Chamber of Commerce, Prince Charles said that “time is rapidly running out” to ensure a carbon-free recovery.
Also speaking at the event was Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, who underlined that tackling the climate crisis poses a “much, much bigger” challenge than Covid.
Prince Charles told the online conference on Tuesday: “I hardly need to stress the planetary emergency confronting us, nor the desperately urgent need for action, yet if I may say so, I believe we now find ourselves presented with a unique opportunity to catalyse change towards a sustainable nature-based path here in Cornwall.”
The Duke of Cornwall said growth must be sustainable and not destroy the planet’s “miraculous diversity”.
“It is abundantly clear that Cornish businesses must deliver not just growth but the kind of sustainable growth, genuinely sustainable growth, which gives back to nature in return for what we take from her, and which consequently leaves the next generation the inheritance of a thriving natural environment that is more resilient, and able to deliver a shared prosperity within planetary boundaries,” he said.
“At present, we are rapidly and disastrously destroying the miraculous diversity and interconnectedness of all species of life on Earth, thereby leaving us dangerously exposed to further devastating pandemics.”
In his speech, Sir Patrick said the UK had a great deal of work to do in order to achieve its target of net-zero by 2050.
Comparing the need to reach net-zero to responding to the Covid pandemic, he said that the challenge is “much, much bigger than Covid, it will last much longer”, adding that and it will require changes to become “embedded in everyday ways of working and living”.
“Whatever we do needs to be sustainable, and that sustainability needs to be at the individual level, at the business level and at the societal level,” he said. “It means that what changes we make have to be affordable and durable.”
Sir Patrick stressed that innovation was “not a free pass” in dealing with the climate emergency, saying: “We need to be realistic that anything that isn’t already discovered, is not really going to help us get to this by 2050.”
As well as its goal of net-zero by 2050, the UK aims to cut emissions by 78 per cent by 2035 compared to 1990 levels. According to an analysis by Carbon Brief, the UK’s emissions in 2020 were 51 per cent below 1990 levels.
However, the milestone was achieved after an 11 per cent drop in emissions over the last year, which have been chiefly attributed to the pandemic. Emissions are expected to rise again as the economy recovers.
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