Coronavirus crisis presents a 'golden opportunity' to reboot the economy, Prince Charles says

Prince Charles, Prince of Wales speaks on stage at the WaterAid water and climate event at Kings Place on March 10, 2020 in London, England.
Tim P. Whitby - WPA Pool/Getty Images

The Covid-19 pandemic presents the world with an opportunity to make the economy greener and more sustainable, according to Prince Charles.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum's (WEF) "The Great Reset" event Wednesday, the heir to the British throne warned that climate change had the potential to wreak even more damage than the "dreadful pandemic."

"The threat of climate change has been more gradual — but its devastating reality for many people and their livelihoods around the world, and its ever greater potential to disrupt, surpasses even that of Covid-19," he said.

"If we look at the planet as if it were a patient, we can see that our activities have been damaging her immune system, and she has been struggling to function and thrive due to the strain we have put on her vital organs."

The Prince of Wales called for decisive action to stimulate a more circular bioeconomy "that gives back to nature as much as we take from her."

"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 said.

"As we move from rescue to recovery, we have a unique but rapidly shrinking window of opportunity to learn lessons and reset ourselves on a more sustainable path. It is an opportunity we have never had before and may never have again."

He outlined five ways in which the economy could recover from the coronavirus crisis while confronting the risks posed by global warming.

First, he said companies and policymakers needed to capture the imagination and will of humanity.

"Secondly, the global economic recovery must set on a new trajectory of sustainable employment," he added.

Prince Charles' third call to action was for existing systems to be redesigned so that economies around the world could transition to net-zero carbon emissions.

"In this regard carbon pricing can form a critical pathway to genuinely sustainable markets," he said. "Countries, businesses and industries moving together can create efficiencies in economies of scale that will allow us to leapfrog our collective progress and accelerate our transition."

A carbon price can be implemented by governments either adding a levy to the distribution, sale or use of fossil fuels based on their carbon content, or via a quota system called cap-and-trade, which sets regional emissions allowances in advance and lets companies bid for "permits to pollute."

Prince Charles also called for a reinvigoration of science, technology and innovation, noting that the Covid-19 crisis had emphasized the importance of investing in those areas.

Finally, the Prince of Wales said, the global economy must accelerate sustainable investment, claiming this could offer significant economic growth and employment opportunities.

"It is time to align sustainable solutions with funding in a way that can transform the marketplace," he said. "This would be the most dramatic act of responsible leadership ever seen by the global private sector and would at once provide a catalytic incentive for the public sector to follow."