The Prince’s Speech

February 22, 2011

Not one to be overshadowed by Oscar-nabbing, king-impersonating, fancy boy Colin Firth, Prince Charles stole back the spotlight for modern British royalty with a speech on low carbon prosperity at the European Parliament. The Prince called out climate change skeptics and discussed ways to bring the United Kingdom to a sustainable balance between industry and the environment.  Some highlights included: Economy and environment are linked — not two exclusive interests.

I cannot see how we can possibly maintain the growth of GDP in the long-term if we continue to consume our planet as voraciously as we are doing. We have to see that there is a direct relationship between the resilience of Nature’s ecosystems and the resilience of our national economies. And, let us not forget, it is on that resilience that our future prosperity actually depends.

Not having a rainforest within your borders does not release you from the consequences of deforestation.

Having already felled or burned a third of the world’s tropical rainforests in the last fifty years, six million hectares of rainforest continue to disappear every year.  And because the trees are not there to transfer billions of tonnes of water to the atmosphere, so the world’s weather patterns are disrupted which, in turn, seriously undermines the stability of food production. So, you see, burning a hectare of rainforest has a direct impact upon the livelihoods of many communities and, thus, a direct impact on economic growth and prosperity at a local level.

Going “green” can’t just be a lifestyle choice. It’s a governmental, economic and infrastructural choice, too.

Underpinning any new framework, undoubtedly, is the need for an integrated set of long-term public policies and instruments to encourage a “green economy.” Such an economy would rely on sustainable asset management, more productive processing of waste, the construction of new, zero-carbon buildings and the retro-fitting of existing stock and on achieving stringent energy efficiency targets for our buildings, cars and household goods. If only we could look at the world in this new way, we could create significant – and, crucially, sustainable – economic opportunities.

No government is going to just hand us a sustainable future. It’s up to us, the consumer, to demand it.

Now I would merely add to this list one very important acknowledgment, if I may, and that is the role of the consumer. It seems to me that until we all as consumers really begin to demand sustainable products and services from businesses and Governments, then policy-makers will struggle to see the importance of introducing real change.

Well played, Prince Charles. Well played indeed.