Prince Philip speaks at World Conference on Pollution in 1970
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This week, members of the Royal Family have attended the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, as world leaders from more than 100 nations gather to engage in landmark talks to tackle the climate crisis. Prince Charles and Prince William have both addressed delegates of the conference, to encourage them to work together in hashing out new targets to reduce carbon emissions and address climate change. Yesterday William, who is attending COP26 alongside Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, urged world leaders to “think differently” and “act boldly” to make the “impossible, possible”.
Charles, who has long been a passionate conservationist, said on Monday the coronavirus pandemic had “shown us just how devastating a global, cross border threat can be”.
The heir-apparent added that climate change posed “an even greater existential threat to the extent that we have to put ourselves on what might be called a war-like footing.”
The Queen, who was unable to attend COP26 on medical advice, sent a video message to delegates, urging them to act “for our children and our children’s children” and “rise above the politics of the moment”.
Her Majesty added she took “great pride” in how her “dear late husband” Prince Philip promoted environmental issues.
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The Duke of Edinburgh championed environmental causes throughout his life and even helped found the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), now known as the World Wildlife Fund.
Philip campaigned for conservation long before it became fashionable, by touring the world to draw attention to the plight of species endangered by poaching, deforestation and pollution.
In an unearthed video from February 1970, Philip is seen giving an impassioned speech on the need to “take action” in tackling rising levels of pollution.
At the Conference on World Pollution in Strasbourg he told politicians they “need to act now on pollution before it’s too late”.
He added: “It’s totally useless for a lot of well-meaning people to wring their hands in conference and point out the dangers of pollution or destruction of the country’s countryside, if no one is willing or capable of taking any action.”
In the audience for the Strasbourg speech was Charles who, inspired by his father, has become one of the most committed conservationists in the Royal Family.
The late Duke of Edinburgh helped found the WWF in 1961 and the Australian Conservation Foundation in 1963, becoming president of the former between 1981 and 1996.
Philip also authored several books about the threats faced by many of the world’s animals, including ‘Wildlife Crisis’ in 1970.
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Three years after his speech before the Conference on World Pollution, Philip called for action at the Australian Conservation Foundation.
He said: “I think it’s important for every faction in conservation to realise that we are all part of the same popular conservation movement.
“In spite of differences of emphasis within the movement, our only hope for making any impression on public, industrial or government opinion and outlook is to do our homework and to do our best to work together.”
Despite Philip’s unquestionable love of the natural world, some of his actions raised eyebrows among environmentalists.
In the same year he became president of the WWF, he and the Queen took part in a tiger and rhino hunt during a tour of Nepal.
The pair also posed with the body of an eight-foot tiger in Ranthambore, India, that had been reportedly killed by Philip, along with a crocodile and six mountain sheep.
The Duke of Edinburgh was also an advocate of fox hunting and supported the shooting of game birds.
In a 2011 BBC interview Philip hotly refuted the suggestion he might identify with the ‘green’ movement.
He said: “I think that there’s a difference between being concerned for the conservation of nature and being a bunny-hugger.
“When I was president of the WWF, I got more letters from people about the way animals were treated in zoos than about any concern for the survival of species.
“People can’t get their heads around the idea of a species surviving.
“They’re more concerned about how you treat a donkey in Sicily or something.”
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