Prince Charles has called for a “rewiring” of the global economic system in order to avert catastrophic climate change while urging more government intervention to ensure that it happens.
Although the Prince has long been outspoken on environmental issues, his voice joins an increasing clamour from world leaders, including the Pope, to jettison capitalism to save the planet.
Speaking to an audience of politicians and business people at a dinner for the University of Cambridge’s Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), of which he is a patron, Prince Charles said that, thanks to a growing population, between five and seven trillion U.S. dollars would need to be spent in the coming years on building urban capacity 175 times the size of London plus associated infrastructure, whilst simultaneously cutting carbon emissions by four fifths.
“Having thought about this a great deal, and for more years than I care to remember, it seems to me that if we are to achieve different outcomes to the ones toward which we are presently headed, then we will absolutely need a different kind of economy to get there,” he said.
“Governments will have to set targets, signal the direction of travel and create the fiscal conditions necessary for attracting the right kind of finance towards the correct priorities. Those who run our financial systems and lead our companies will need to develop strategies and work together for successful implementation. And citizens across the world will need to understand why change is necessary,” he added.
And he praised the Guardian’s “Keep it in the Ground” carbon fuel divestment campaign as “clear, compelling and powerfully resonant with many millions of people around the world,” which had “focused the mind very considerably as to the scale of the transition before us.” The campaign has been accused of being “bullying, sanctimonious and dishonest.”
His speech was designed to promote a new report by the Institute for Sustainability Leadership entitled “Rewiring the Economy: Ten Tasks, Ten Years.” The report asserts:
“The current economy shows no sign of maintaining global temperature rise under two degrees, or addressing key challenges like inequality or natural resource degradation. That this is the case reveals a monumental market failure: current price signals are too weak to change economic behaviour, despite the costs to society that arise from business as usual. Thoughtful companies can mitigate their impacts to a certain degree but, in a competitive market, investment in ‘public goods’ has obvious limits. To go further, business needs to compete on a different playing field.”
A “different playing field” in this case means a corporatist/socialist one, in which governments dictate where businesses direct their focus through the considered use of subsidies and target setting.
Corporations are called on to play their part in railroading the public into compliance – one of the “ten tasks” exhorts companies to ” use their communications and marketing muscle to build public understanding of (and appetite for) sustainable business.”
The Prince’s intervention follows the Pope’s much anticipated encyclical on climate change which promoted socialism in a similar vein. “The environment is one of those goods that cannot be adequately safeguarded or promoted by market forces,” Pope Francis said.
He called on world leaders to organise a massive redistribution of wealth from rich countries to poor as penance for the climate catastrophe that the west has apparently inflicted on the developing world. “The foreign debt of poor countries has become a way of controlling them, yet this is not the case where ecological debt is concerned,” Francis wrote.
“In different ways, developing countries, where the most important reserves of the biosphere are found, continue to fuel the development of richer countries at the cost of their own present and future.
“The developed countries ought to help pay this debt by significantly limiting their consumption of non-renewable energy and by assisting poorer countries to support policies and programmes of sustainable development.”
The encyclical was praised by President Obama, who wrote: “I welcome His Holiness Pope Francis’s encyclical, and deeply admire the Pope’s decision to make the case — clearly, powerfully, and with the full moral authority of his position — for action on global climate change.”
But defenders of free markets have attacked the Pope’s stance as morally indefensible, accusing the Pope’s advisors of losing “their moral compass”.
Dr Indur Goklany of the Global Warming Policy Foundation warned that the claims made by Pope Francis in his encyclical are both scientifically lacking and ethically dubious. “The academies say that sustainability and resilience are being destroyed by over-consumption and that fossil fuels are to blame, yet almost every indicator of human well-being from life-expectancy to health to standard of living has improved beyond measure largely because of our use of fossil fuels,” Dr Goklany explained.
He added: “Climate change is a moral and ethical issue, but it is a strange ethical calculus that would justify wiping out the gains we have made in human well-being over the last few centuries at the same time devastating the natural world. The Vatican’s advisors appear to have lost their way.”
According to satellite data, there has been no global warming for 18 years and six months.