You hardly need me to tell you – but I will all the same! – that climate change threatens all of us, and all of our descendants, so it really is an issue requiring concerted action from every sector of society. And it will certainly mean doing things differently. 

Having barely got over the astonishment of being selected for this award, I could not be more delighted to accept it, not least because it gives me one more chance to bang the drum about climate change! This is an issue that has concerned me greatly for many years. I suppose it ought to be encouraging that public and political awareness of the issue has now increased so dramatically. But I cannot help thinking that awareness only delivers us to the starting line of doing something realistic about the problem.

What we need now, clearly, is a set of positive actions that will really engage human ingenuity and determination and create some solutions, matched by the political and personal will to carry them through.

The Kyoto Protocol and the subsequent agreement in Montreal was – whatever some may say - a start, and I do want to pay tribute to the hard work of all the people here tonight whose tireless and professional efforts, whether as environmental campaigners or as journalists, were so influential in achieving that success. It must have seemed an impossible and thankless task at times but, as we all know, the things that are most worthwhile often have to be fought for…

And, for what it is worth, I do think targets are important, not least in clarifying where we are trying to reach and in what timescale. The business community, in particular, needs absolute clarity about both targets and policy frameworks if it is to justify long-term investments in reducing emissions and developing new technologies. But I also know from my personal contacts with many business leaders how willing they are to accept the challenge. 

The Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change, established out of my Business and the Environment Programme, is proof that many of the most distinguished business leaders really do believe that taking serious action to tackle climate change makes long-term business sense. 

For instance, they say that they believe emissions can be cut by 60 per cent in this country without damaging competitiveness if companies use energy more wisely and harness new technology. 

Civil servants have an important role to play too. From time to time I have pointed out, as politely as I have been able, that policies made with the best of environmental intentions in one government department can all too easily be rendered worthless by policies made, with equal conviction, elsewhere. 

So the proposal from WWF that all new legislation and regulation should be assessed for its impact on carbon emissions seems eminently sensible. I think it might be surprising to see how much otherwise well-intentioned regulation would fail this now essential test…

You hardly need me to tell you – but I will all the same! – that climate change threatens all of us, and all of our descendants, so it really is an issue requiring concerted action from every sector of society. And it will certainly mean doing things differently. 

I remember that in the early 1980s The Guardian, no less, entertained its readers by describing what it called a ‘strange engine', that I encouraged to be installed at Buckingham Palace. It was, of course, nothing more sinister than an early bottle bank! 

A few years later, there was a stir when the Palace put in pumps for the then almost unheard-of lead-free petrol. And at about the same time, I amused everyone greatly by converting Highgrove to organic farming and starting Duchy Originals - earning myself a headline in a thankfully now defunct tabloid newspaper as the ‘shop soiled royal'…. 

But if you think about bottle banks, lead-free petrol and organic produce, they have all achieved widespread public acceptance at least partly because they have been made easy and convenient. The infinitely greater challenge, of course, is to find ways of tackling climate change that are equally accessible and simple. 

And here I think we should probably be starting with energy efficiency, which I believe still has huge untapped potential to make a difference and is relatively simple to achieve on a far greater scale than people imagine. Even the seemingly little things can make a significant contribution – such as switching off lights and the “stand-by” buttons on televisions and computers, and using low-energy light bulbs.

Thank you again for taking the risk of awarding me my BEMA, and many congratulations to all the other winners, amongst whom I am – of course - delighted and proud, as Patron, to see the Soil Association. I hope you all have a thoroughly exemplary organic evening.