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Tropical Forest Summit

8th May 2013

The Prince of Wales gives a speech at St. James's Palace

The Prince of Wales gives a speech at St. James's Palace

The Prince of Wales today warned that the destruction of rainforests is "the greatest risk that we have ever faced".

And speaking at a meeting of renowned tropical forest scientists and politicians at St James's Palace he warned that global leaders "must act now" because "the risk of not doing so is far too great".

Speaking after a two-day meeting on how to protect the world's rainforests. The Prince likened Earth's condition to that of a doctor treating a sick child when the cause of illness was not known for certain.

He said: "The doctor cannot wait until results of tests come back from the lab - the doctor must act on what evidence is already there.

"There is an urgency that depends upon the risk involved, and given that this is the greatest risk we have ever faced, surely, as the doctor, we can't wait to act.

"If we see our forests and the planet as our patient, the risk of delay is so enormous that we cannot wait until we are absolutely sure the patient is dying. That is a monumental risk no doctor would ever take."

His Royal Highness added that his work on this issue was often "disheartening".

The Prince went on: "I am afraid that we do not have much time.

"I have to say that one of the many disheartening aspects of these sorts of gatherings is the number of times I, and I am sure you, have repeated all this and the number of years during which I have done so to the point that I sometimes wonder whether I am in fact dreaming this incessant nightmare of hearing the echo of my own voice."

He called on leaders to have "the courage to face down a storm of opposition from all sides, claiming the end of the world as we know it".

The Prince of Wales has been interested in the conservation of tropical rainforests and the environment for a number of years.

In October 2007 he set up The Prince's Rainforests Project, and has previously said it would be an "act of suicide on a grand scale" to ignore environmental issues.

The Prince also quipped about climate change sceptics in his speech.

He said: "When it comes to the incorporated society of syndicated sceptics and the International Association of Corporate lobbyists any scientist is likely to find him or herself up the proverbial double blind gum-tree!"

The meeting was also addressed by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Owen Paterson, and Ed Davey, the Climate Change Secretary.

Mr Davey said the Government is pursuing an "ambitious and innovative strategy" and praised the scientists gathered at the meeting for their "noble and necessary work".

He added: "I can't compromise here because the science is overwhelming - because climate change threatens every man, woman and child."

The group of scientists and The Prince also issued a St. James's Palace memorandum on tropical forest science, calling for "strategic investment" and global action to halt the destruction of the world's rainforests.

A speech by HRH The Prince of Wales at a meeting on Tropical Forest Science

Published on 8th May 2013

Ladies and Gentlemen, may I begin by welcoming you all to St. James’s Palace, and by saying how delighted I am that you have been able to come here this afternoon.  I would also like to thank our distinguished academic colleagues who have been at the Royal Society yesterday and this morning at the meeting on tropical forest science convened by my International Sustainability Unit, in partnership with Professor Yadvinder Malhi at the University of Oxford, to whom I would like to offer particular thanks.

It seems to me that there could hardly be a more important endeavour than the task of conserving the world’s remaining tropical forests, and it is my sincere hope that the meeting of leading scientific experts, coupled with this afternoon’s exchange between leaders from Governments, the private sector and civil society, will make a significant contribution towards reaching this goal.

I certainly don’t need to remind you all of why it is so essential that we make rapid progress in this direction, as you all know far better than I, that the tropical forests play an absolutely critical role in ensuring the stability of the global climate; they are vital in providing global food, water and energy security; and, let us not forget that reducing deforestation is also very likely the single most effective way of avoiding the mass extinction of animals and plants.  Tropical forests are also fundamental in ensuring that we are able to protect and support the incredible diversity of human cultures, let alone the ...

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