22nd September 2023 – (London) While Britain’s Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, faced criticism for scaling back green commitments, King Charles III delivered a contrasting message on the global stage during his historic speech to the French Senate. The monarch emphasised the need for France and the UK to work together more effectively to address the challenges posed by climate change, highlighting the issue’s existential importance.
King Charles III’s address followed closely on the heels of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s announcement to dial back several policies aimed at achieving net-zero carbon emissions in the UK by 2050. This decision sparked outrage among opposition politicians, environmental activists, and some business groups.
Renowned for his outspoken views on climate change, Charles had already expressed the urgency of combating this global crisis during a speech at the Palace of Versailles the previous night. In his address to the French Senate, delivered in both French and English, he reinforced his stance.
“Just as we stand together against military aggression [in Ukraine], so must we strive together to protect the world from our most existential challenge of all: that of global warming, climate change, and the catastrophic destruction of nature,” Charles stated. He emphasized the growing realization that nature preservation is crucial for human survival and commended the measures taken by governments, citizens, and the private sector.
Charles has long championed climate advocacy, addressing the reality of climate change publicly as early as 1970, even before ascending to the throne. While he adopts a more restrained approach on political matters as king, he remains steadfast in his commitment to the environment.
During his Senate address, Charles highlighted the potential contributions that both France and the UK could make in the fight against climate change. His speech, planned well in advance, became particularly significant amidst scrutiny of Sunak’s climate credentials back home, following the relaxation of key targets for electric vehicles and cleaner heating.
Later in the day, Charles joined French President Emmanuel Macron to meet British and French business leaders who are collaborating on clean growth, investment in sustainable practices, and the preservation of biodiversity. These efforts, according to Charles, constitute vital global leadership in addressing climate change. On Friday, the British monarch will visit an organic vineyard and an urban forest in Bordeaux, where scientists are studying the impact of climate change.
The speaker of France’s lower house, Yaël Braun-Pivet, commended the king’s personal commitment to protecting biodiversity and the environment, which has been evident since his youth.
As part of his state visit to France, Charles became the first member of the UK royal family to address the French Senate since 2004, when his late mother, Queen Elizabeth II, delivered a speech marking the centenary of the entente cordiale—an agreement between France and Britain in 1904 aimed at resolving colonial disputes.
In his closing remarks, King Charles III proposed a new entente cordiale, this time focused on climate change. He called for a renewal of the historic agreement, transforming it into an entente for sustainability, to effectively respond to the global emergencies of climate change and biodiversity for the sake of future generations.