Charles tells Cop28: Countries are ‘dreadfully far off’ achieving climate goals

King Charles at the Business and Philanthropy Climate Forum reception in Dubai on Thursday (Andrew Matthews/PA)
King Charles at the Business and Philanthropy Climate Forum reception in Dubai on Thursday (Andrew Matthews/PA) King Charles at the Business and Philanthropy Climate Forum reception in Dubai on Thursday (Andrew Matthews/PA)

The King has warned that the world remains “dreadfully far off track” in key climate targets and called for meaningful change in an opening address at Cop28 in Dubai.

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 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.

Cop28 summit
Cop28 summit Charles joined world leaders in walking to the World Climate Action Summit in Dubai (Andrew Matthews/PA)

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.

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.