Prince Harry has shown his support for his father’s fight to save the world’s coral reefs by joining the Prince of Wales at a major conference on the issue.
Harry took his seat among marine experts, global organisations and foreign government figures to hear Charles warn that a “graveyard of destroyed reefs” is not a dire problem for future generations but a catastrophe society faces now.
The heir to the throne also highlighted “one or two outposts” which had yet to turn their attention to climate problems caused by human activity.
Charles did not mention names but his comment could be interpreted by some as a criticism of high profile climate change sceptics like US president Donald Trump, who has previously labelled climate change a hoax by the Chinese to hurt US manufacturing, and former Chancellor Lord Lawson, who founded the climate sceptic pressure group Global Warming Policy Forum.
The prince said: “…this event is vitally important, for while the world – apart from one or two outposts here and there – has begun to focus, at last, on the profound perils of climate change, far too little attention has been given to the increasingly devastating impact of climate change on the ocean and its biodiversity.”
Charles said it was “deeply irresponsible” that people regarded the loss of these rich marine systems as somehow the “price of progress” rather than an “arbiter of our vulnerability”.
Harry’s visit was unannounced and he arrived sometime before his father at Fishmongers’ Hall in central London.
He was seen chatting to some of the delegates attending the one-day conference, which was organised by Charles’s International Sustainability Unit.
During his speech, Charles said coral reefs were not only threatened by global warming but by coastal developments, over-fishing, destructive fishing – where explosives or other substances are used – and land-based pollution.
He added: “The combination of these impacts has already caused the unimaginable loss of 50% of the world’s tropical coral reefs over the last three decades.
“More recently, we have seen the most widespread and severe bleaching event on record sweep across the world’s coral reefs, leaving behind terrible scenes of destruction.”
At the Our Ocean summit last October, Charles, with Prince Albert of Monaco and Jordan’s Queen Noor, launched the Coral Reef Life Declaration, which seeks commitments from coral reef countries to protect them.
Charles also told delegates: “Well, the speed of the ecological marine cataclysm that we have engendered is such that not only will our children be faced with the monochrome legacy of the graveyard of destroyed reefs and the collapse of marine biodiversity, but the majority of us alive today will stand witness to the process.”
He urged delegates to give the oceans a chance to heal themselves and hoped the meeting would “galvanise a global movement” to create long-lasting initiatives.
The event brought together leading figures and organisations to discuss solutions to saving the reefs in light of the International Coral Reef Initiative designating 2018 as the International Year of the Reef.
During an official trip to the Caribbean in 2016, Harry met conservationists in Grenada who were trying to restock the local coral habitat.
Before taking a trip in a glass-bottomed boat to see their work, he presented a handwritten postcard message of support for the project to organisers, which said: “It is fantastic to see Grenada doing their bit for their surrounding ocean and coral reefs. We must protect the things that give us so much.”
A Kensington Palace spokeswoman said: “Prince Harry has an interest in this issue and was invited by the Prince of Wales to attend.”