Prince Charles urges businesses to help lead way on climate

Prince says private-sector innovation and finance is vital, otherwise ‘we just don’t stand a chance’

Prince Charles on a bike
Prince Charles on a bike at Highgrove House in Tetbury, Gloucestershire on Thursday. Charles has long taken a close interest in green issues. Photograph: Arthur Edwards/AFP/Getty Images
Prince Charles on a bike at Highgrove House in Tetbury, Gloucestershire on Thursday. Charles has long taken a close interest in green issues. Photograph: Arthur Edwards/AFP/Getty Images

Last modified on Thu 10 Jun 2021 23.37 EDT

Prince Charles has said businesses must lead the way alongside governments in tackling the climate emergency.

Before the start of the G7 summit in Cornwall on Friday, he told a gathering of political and business leaders that private-sector cash and knowhow was essential, and businesses needed strong policy signals from government.

He said: “We have a potentially gamechanging opportunity to drive forward the partnerships between government, business and private-sector finance that are absolutely vital if we are to win the battle to combat climate change and biodiversity loss … unless we can actually unlock the private sector’s resources and innovation, with the public sector setting the framework of incentives and regulation, we just don’t stand a chance of solving this existential crisis that we have been engineering over the years.”

The prince met John Kerry, the US climate envoy, in London on Thursday, and also convened a group of international business leaders, who will be invited to speak to the G7 leaders about the climate crisis – an unusual departure for the G7 meeting, which is normally confined to the heads of government of the US, the UK, Japan, Canada, Germany, France and Italy, plus EU representatives.

Boris Johnson said: “Halting climate change and reversing biodiversity loss will require every part of our society and economy to pull together, from shipping to aeronautics and banking. The private sector has a vital role to play in accelerating the shift to clean, green technology and creating the jobs of the future, and I’m delighted to see so many major companies coming together under the Prince of Wales’ initiative to support that endeavour.

“I will be putting the climate crisis front and centre of the G7 summit in Cornwall this weekend as we work together to build back better and greener from the pandemic.”

Charles has set up forums for businesses in 10 key sectors to work together on cutting carbon emissions. The sectors include energy, road transport, aviation and shipping, fashion and textiles, waste management, plastic and chemicals, technology and “natural capital”, which includes farming.

The business leaders called for the G7 governments to set out clear policies to show how they would meet their long-term goals of reaching net zero emissions by 2050 and cutting emissions sharply by 2030.

While all the G7 nations have long-term goals and 2030 targets, few have the comprehensive and detailed policies required to meet them.

Brian Moynihan, the chief executive of Bank of America, said: “Only the private sector can mobilise the trillions of dollars of capital needed to drive the transition toward a low-carbon sustainable future and meet net zero targets. The Terra Carta transition coalitions are an important next step to help drive sustainable finance. As CEOs, we welcome the leadership of the G7 to help overcome barriers and develop the right incentives to accelerate those outcomes.”

Some of the industries involved will face great challenges in reducing emissions. John Holland-Kaye, the chief executive of Heathrow airport, said: “Aviation is a global industry and requires collaboration through initiatives such as the Terra Carta to reach a global agreement. We are calling for a commitment from the global aviation industry to get to net zero by 2050 and for governments to set a mandate for at least 10% sustainable aviation fuels use by 2030 and at least 50% by 2050 to give the signal needed for industry to scale up supply, and price incentives to stimulate demand and foster investment.”

Prince Charles has long taken a close interest in green issues, having made his first speech on the environment more than 50 years ago. He set up a forum for businesses to work on environmental sustainability, called the Sustainable Markets Initiative, and has called for a Terra Carta, a roadmap for tackling the climate and biodiversity crises.

Last month he wrote in the Guardiang urging small farmers to band together in cooperatives to adopt sustainable and environmentally sound farming methods.

Among the topics the business leaders will raise at the G7 are ways to spur greater investment in clean technologies and projects. The heads of government are not expected to come up with detailed plans or policies on cutting emissions, but will affirm long-term goals.

They are under pressure to come up with more funding to help poor nations cut their emissions and cope with the impacts of climate breakdown, as well as providing access to Covid vaccines.