The Prince of Wales has urged nations to work together to tackle the environmental threat to the planet – just as the world has mobilised to combat the coronavirus.
Charles used global efforts to halt the spread of the deadly Covid-19 illness as an example of how urgent action is possible, during a speech to delegates at a WaterAid event looking at the impact of climate change on drinking water.
And in a later speech to other delegates he described the virus as contributing to a “perfect storm” of threat multipliers to the environmental issue.
WaterAid, which the prince supports as president, works to provide clean water, decent toilets and hygiene knowledge across the globe, and states that 3.6 billion people live in areas where water is scarce, due to issues like drought or flooding contaminating supplies.
The number of people living with inadequate sources of water is predicted to rise to five billion by 2050, if no global action is taken.
Charles, who has recently been following the practice of not shaking hands, told a round-table discussion group: “With the urgency that now exists around avoiding irreversible damage to our planet, we must put ourselves on what can only be described as a war footing.
“The current battle against the coronavirus at least demonstrates, if nothing else, how quickly the world can mobilise when we identify a common threat.”
Also around the table was Prince Albert of Monaco, a long-term supporter of WaterAid, Environment Minister Lord Goldsmith and senior representatives from global companies like the World Bank, Unilever and international water organisations.
Charles addressed the roundtable debate at a centre in London’s King’s Cross area, and he later spoke to a wider number of delegates in an auditorium.
He highlighted how 2020 is an important year for global debate on the environment, with a Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in June expected to discuss the issue, and Glasgow hosting COP26, the UN Climate Change conference in November.
The prince told the delegates: “I’m hugely grateful to WaterAid and all the other partners who are here today for bringing water and climate into focus in this – it literally is vital – super year.
“Somewhat of course now interrupted by other horrors like coronavirus, which makes it all much more complicated, so we end up with a perfect storm now of threat multipliers in all directions.”
WaterAid is calling for a tenfold increase in climate finance that goes to water, sanitation and hygiene services from donor governments and climate finance institutions.
And the charity wants governments to include clean water access in their national climate change planning processes.
Charles went on to say: “Water is utterly central to all life on Earth, so protecting it – I don’t need to tell you this it’s stating the blinding obvious – is utterly critical to our survival.
“Inevitably, some people have too much of it, some people have too little. You end up with too little for a very long time and then you have too much.
“Which makes life very complicated indeed, unless we really work urgently to stabilise the climate, which means de-carbonising our economy rapidly.
“So with climate change being the greatest threat humanity has ever faced, quite literally, and with time rapidly running out – as some of us have tried to point out for quite a long time – I can only encourage you to raise your level of ambition to collaborate as much as you possibly can for solutions and scale.”