The recovery from the coronavirus crisis represents an opportunity to reset the global economy and prioritise sustainable development without further damaging the planet, Prince Charles said at the opening of a World Economic Forum (WEF) virtual meeting.
Outlining a five-point plan to rebuild economies following a global recession, the 71-year-old prince said the pandemic was the result of a breakdown in the link between humanity and nature that could be corrected by recognising “the interdependence of all living things”.
The prince emphasised that the private sector would be the engine of recovery and was heartened by the pledges from business leaders to recognise the damage to the environment that would result from an unfettered dash for growth.
“We have a unique but rapidly shrinking window of opportunity to learn lessons and reset ourselves on a more sustainable path,” said Charles, who himself has recovered after suffering mild symptoms of Covid-19.
He said that the pandemic, which has forced governments worldwide to mothball their economies, had showed people that dramatic change was possible.
“We have a golden opportunity to seize something good from this crisis. Its unprecedented shockwaves may well make people more receptive to big visions of change,” he added.
The five points he outlined were:
To capture the imagination and will of humanity – change will only happen if people really want it.
The economic recovery must put the world on the path to sustainable employment, livelihoods and growth. Longstanding incentive structures that have had perverse effects on our planetary environment and nature herself must be reinvented
Systems and pathways must be redesigned to advance net zero transitions globally. Carbon pricing can provide a critical pathway to a sustainable market.
Science, technology and innovation need re-invigorating. Humanity is on the verge of catalytic breakthroughs that will alter our view of what it possible and profitable in the framework of a sustainable future.
Investment must be rebalanced. Accelerating green investments can offer job opportunities in green energy, the circular and bio-economy, eco-tourism and green public infrastructure.
The WEF, which stages an influential annual gathering of business and political leaders at its annual meeting in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, has come under fire from anti-poverty groups in recent years for failing to tackle climate change and executive pay.
Charles’s speech was part of a launch event for The Great Reset, a project involving the WEF and the Prince of Wales’s Sustainable Markets Initiative, aimed at rebuilding the economic and social system to be more sustainable.
Speaking at the same event, International Monetary Fund boss Kristalina Georgieva said the world economy faced a similar situation to the UK in the second world war. She urged global leaders to recognise the success of the 1942 Beveridge report, which put forward reforms to raise welfare and health standards across Britain, and was ready to be implemented when the war was over.
“That led to a better country after the war and to a National Health Service that is saving so many lives today. We have to use all the strength we have to turn a page and have history be about the Great Reset and not the Great Reversal.”
She added: “The best memorial we can build to those who have lost their lives is a greener, smarter, fairer world.”