The King today told world leaders that ‘the hope of the world rests on the decisions you must take’ as he addressed the Cop28 eco-summit in Dubai.
Charles is the only foreign head of state who has been invited to speak at the climate action meeting of global leaders, in honour of the work he has been undertaking in the environmental field for decades.
Charles said at the opening of the World Climate Action Summit on Friday that despite some progress, ‘transformational action’ was needed as the dangers of climate change are ‘no longer distant risks’.
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.
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.
In his speech, His Majesty told delegates: ‘I pray with all my heart that Cop28 will be a critical turning point towards genuine transformational action.’
King Charles III speaks during an opening ceremony at the COP28 U.N. Climate Summit
In his address, 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% 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.
‘The dangers are no longer distant risks. I have seen across the Commonwealth, and beyond, countless communities which are unable to withstand repeated shocks, whose lives and livelihoods are laid waste by climate change.
‘Surely, real action is required to stem the growing toll of its most vulnerable victims.’
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.
The King 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.
‘As I have tried to say on many occasions, unless we rapidly repair and restore nature’s unique economy, based on harmony and balance, which is our ultimate sustainer, our own economy and survivability will be imperilled,’ he said.
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.
They are how public and private organisations can be brought together to combat climate change; how to ensure money is found for developments to secure a sustainable future; how innovation can be accelerated; how long-term approaches can be found; and how an ‘ambitious new vision’ can be forged for the next century.
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.
That includes a £60 million contribution to a loss and damage fund for the world’s poorest countries worth a total of about 420 million US dollars (£332 million), which was announced on Thursday.
Charles’ address was his first at the conference as King, having previously opened Cop26 in Glasgow in 2021 and Cop21 in Paris in 2015.
King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein of Jordan and King Charles III attend the opening ceremony of the World Climate Action Summit during COP28
King Charles III laughs as he attends the opening ceremony of the World Climate Action Summit during COP28
King Charles III chats to President of the United Arab Emirates Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan
King Charles III greets King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein of Jordan in Dubai this morning
Closing his speech, the King said: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, in your hands, is an unmissable opportunity to keep our common hope alive.
‘I can only urge you to meet it with ambition, imagination, and a true sense of the emergency we face, and together with a commitment to the practical action upon which our shared future depends.
‘After all, ladies and gentlemen, 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.
‘So if we act together to safeguard our precious planet, the welfare of all our people will surely follow.
‘We need to remember too that the indigenous worldview teaches us that we are all connected, not only as human beings but with all living things and all that sustains life.
‘As part of this grand and sacred system, harmony with nature must be maintained.
‘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.
He also met the French president, Emmanuel Macron, and President Lula of Brazil, who is the president-elect of Cop30 in Belem in 2025.
The King has used his trip to Dubai to promote peace in the region in several talks, having also met with the presidents of Nigeria, Guyana and the United Arab Emirates on Thursday.
Aides had earlier said His Majesty ‘deeply appreciates’ the invitation, which came from the UAE as host nation and at the request of the British Government.
The King told Lord Cameron: ‘I would not have missed it for the world’, as he met students at a campus in Dubai.
Later he was given a present by indigenous tribes from Brazil of a handmade decorated wooden bird, a symbol of biodiversity. Joenia Wapichana said: ‘I thanked him for everything he has done to help protect biodiversity in the Amazon.’
However, in news that could cause red faces among green campaigners, Cop28 is likely to be the biggest and most polluting event of its kind, according to official figures.
The amount of greenhouse gases emitted by the event is set to outstrip previous meetings due to the sheer numbers attending, experts said.
More than 104,000 official delegates are attending the summit — and an estimated 400,000 others will attend related events in the United Arab Emirates.
The vast majority of attendees at the oil- and gas-rich Gulf country will come by plane – so the amount of emissions produced is likely to dwarf that in previous years.
Scientists calculate a return economy commercial flight to Dubai from the UK will generate about 1.3 tonnes of CO2 — and a private jet more than nine times this figure per passenger.
(L-R) Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, King Charles III and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and Simon Stiell, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change for a family photo
In his speech, His Majesty is expected to tell delegates: ‘I pray with all my heart that Cop28 will be a critical turning point towards genuine transformational action’
However, climate experts say that the huge amounts of greenhouse gas generated by the event will be worth it if it helps to put the brakes on global warming, by getting countries to commit to reducing their emissions.
Richard Black of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit said: ‘Given the number of people expected here, yes this probably will have the highest carbon footprint of any COP to date.
‘But the size of that footprint is absolutely dwarfed by the emission cuts that a deal can produce. If all the agreements made at the Glasgow summit two years ago are realised, that would save 70,000 times more carbon than the summit itself produced.
‘And for this one, the biggest element of a deal that’s on the table – agreeing to triple renewable energy deployment by 2030 – would avoid 7 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions this decade, equivalent to about 20 years of UK emissions.’
A Cop28 spokesman said: ‘Cop28 will demonstrate its sustainability ambition by delivering a carbon conscious and sustainable event.’