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King Charles: 'Hope of the world' rests on COP28 climate negotiations

Britain's King Charles III speaks during the World Climate Action Summit opening session at COP28 in Dubai on Friday. Photo by Christophe Viseux/COP28
Britain's King Charles III speaks during the World Climate Action Summit opening session at COP28 in Dubai on Friday. Photo by Christophe Viseux/COP28

Dec. 1 (UPI) -- Britain's King Charles III made an urgent plea for climate action at the COP28 summit in Dubai on Friday, saying the "hope of the world" rests on the decisions made at the annual meeting.

Charles, who has long been outspoken on environmental issues, said the dangers of climate catastrophe "are no longer distant risks."

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"We are taking the natural world outside balance norms and limits and into dangerous uncharted territory," he said. "We are carrying out a vast frightening experiment of changing every ecological condition all at once."

The British monarch made the remarks at the opening ceremony of the World Climate Action Summit, part of the COP28 talks in Dubai, which kicked off Thursday and will continue until Dec. 12.

Charles called this year's meeting "an unmissable opportunity to keep our common hope alive."

"As you gather, ladies and gentlemen, for these critical negotiations, the hope of the world rests on the decisions you must take," he said. "In 2050, our grandchildren won't be asking what we said -- they will be living with the consequences of what we did or didn't do."

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The event -- officially the Conference of Parties -- comes at the end of a year that saw scorching heat waves and extreme weather from flooding to wildfires around the globe.

On Thursday, the United Nations released its latest global climate report, which concluded that 2023 was "virtually certain" to be the warmest year in the 174-year observational record.

"Earth's vital signs are failing," United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Friday in remarks at the World Climate Action Summit opening,

"We need leadership, cooperation and political will for action, and we need it now," Guterres said, adding that it was not too late to reach the goal of keeping global warming below 1.5 Celsius laid out in the Paris Agreement adopted at COP21.

The U.N. leader said participating countries and stakeholders must commit to "triple renewables, double energy efficiency and bring clean energy to all by 2030."

He also made a strong call for a complete phaseout of fossil fuels, a topic that looms as a key sticking point in COP28 discussions.

"The 1.5-degree limit is only possible if we ultimately stop burning fossil fuels," he said. "We cannot save a burning planet with the firehouse of fossil fuels."

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While COP28 participants such as the European Union are expected to push for a full phaseout, others -- including host country the United Arab Emirates, one of the world's largest oil producers -- have called for a more gradual "phase down."

The controversy around an oil giant hosting the climate meeting was intensified this week when documents leaked to the Center for Climate Reporting and the BBC suggested that COP28 President Sultan Al Jaber planned to use the summit to lobby for oil and gas deals with foreign government officials.

Al Jaber, who heads the UAE's state oil company, forcefully denied the allegations but defended the participation of the fossil fuel industry at COP28 during his opening address Thursday.

"Let history reflect the fact that this is the presidency that made a bold choice to proactively engage with oil and gas companies," he said.

This year's summit kicked off with an early breakthrough on a key agenda item, a fund for poor countries hit hardest by climate disasters such as flooding, droughts and extreme heat.

Al Jaber said Thursday the UAE would contribute $100 million to the fund. Several other countries announced commitments, including Germany, which also pledged $100 million.

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On Friday, the host country made another financial splash, announcing the establishment of a $30 billion climate fund aimed at delivering much-needed investment flows to developing countries.

In the most starkly confrontational address of Friday's opening ceremony, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva decried the "eloquent and empty speeches" of previous climate summits.

"The planet is tired of climate agreements that were not fulfilled," Lula, whose country will be hosting COP30, said. "We need concrete actions."

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