Prince Charles tells CNN he’s working to protect the environment for “your children and my grandchildren”

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In an exclusive interview CNN’s Max Foster sits down with HRH Charles, Prince of Wales. The interview follows the Prince’s appearance at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland – the theme of which was “Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World”.

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During the interview they discuss the Prince’s experience of meeting the climate campaigner Greta Thunberg, his lifelong commitment to protecting the environment, and how he fears the climate crisis could impact his own grandchildren.

Key Quotes

Max Foster: It was a fascinating moment, to see you there next to Greta – two icons of the climate campaign really – from very different generations. What do you make of her and her contribution to the debate?

HRH Charles, Prince of Wales: “Well I mean she’s remarkable, she represents one of the main reasons why I’ve been trying to make all this effort all these years. Because as I said, I didn’t want my grandchildren to accuse me of not doing something about this in time and of course there they all. All her generation, almost my grandchildren if you know what I mean – all desperate because not nearly enough has happened, we’ve left it so late. So, I’ve always worried about the fact that so often, in terms of humanity, we leave everything too late, so you have to hit a brick wall and experience a catastrophe before anything happens. But this time of course, and with this kind of disaster we’ve engineered, it takes a huge amount to turn the whole thing back to how it should be, to restore the balance.”

It was interesting to hear your positivity around the Paris Climate Accord, a lot of people are being very negative about whether or not it’s achievable at all. Just explain to me why you think it is achievable?

“Because I think partly we’ve suddenly noticed, for reference 35 years ago when I first started trying to encourage corporate social environmental responsibility – and I had endless workshops, conferences, gatherings, seminars, dinners, you name it – to try and encourage the private sector executives to take all these issues around sustainability seriously. We could never get the capital markets or the financial services sector to take it seriously. But in the last 2 or 3 years, as I was saying just now, there’s been this extraordinary change, where suddenly there’s a huge amount more investment – I mean vast amounts from all over – wanting to find sustainable investments to put their money into the right things. But of course, at the moment there aren’t enough sustainable projects that have been worked out, so how do they work out the investment model that’s needed for instance for nature-based solutions? Which is one way of trying to tackle this. And of course, the other way is all the different technologies – there’s carbon capture, there’s an amazing range of remarkable ideas and techniques which are there but undercapitalized, so it’s an immense challenge. I’ve just been to a gathering we had where former Secretary of State John Kerry was describing just how – I know the barriers and the challenges are vast – but there is a real opportunity now to link the investors with the projects. I know just from the case of the Commonwealth, such vast challenges there with deforestation and fisheries and agriculture. What we could do is transform a lot of those, particularly by putting the secular bio-economy at the centre of all this. And the bio-economy is now even more possible in terms of what – the returns you can make, the difference you can make to people and their environment, the use of wood and what they can now do – the forestry sector tell me – in terms of wood-based products being used for alternatives to plastics, chemicals, aviation fuel, bio-fuels, everything – and building materials of immense strength. All this provides a real incentive to do the right thing – to put trees again where they’re needed in order to capture carbon but also to help fuel an economy that centres around nature’s own services, the eco-system services we depend on.”

You’ve talked about how the reason you’re doing this is for the children, for your grandchildren. What vision to you see for the likes of Prince George if something isn’t done now?

“It’s not very encouraging is it? If you look at what’s happening at the moment – I mean, we can’t go on like this – with every month another record in temperatures being broken – warmer and warmer and warmer – last year was the hottest ever and we’re already seeing winter where it’s even warmer. So just, if we leave it too long, and we have done, just growing things is going to become difficult. Even in many of these forest areas, in other parts of the world, if you deforest below a certain percentage, you end up with breaking the hydrological cycle and then you can’t plant anything because there’s no water to keep the system going. So we only have a very short window and this is why it’s so absolutely critical, I feel, and with the help of the World Economic Forum it’s why we’re trying to bring as many of these investors together with as many of the companies and sectors as possible – I’m trying to do this each month from now on, in order to try and see if we can create the right framework and the right response to make possible for your children and my grandchildren to have a decent and reasonable future.”

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