Charles proposes France-UK pact to combat climate 'emergency'


Published: 2023-09-22 11:37

Last Updated: 2023-12-08 09:11

Charles proposes France-UK pact to combat climate 'emergency'
Charles proposes France-UK pact to combat climate 'emergency'

King Charles III on Thursday said France and the UK should team up on a new pact to battle the climate emergency, as he hailed the "indispensable" cross-Channel partnership in a rapturously received speech at the French Senate.

Charles won a standing ovation from lawmakers after deftly mixing English and French as well as personal and political reflections in his speech, the highlight on day two of his three-day state visit.

The visit, Charles' second abroad as monarch after a trip to Germany, has so far been seen in British and French media as a success, with occasional calls of "Vive le roi!" ("Long live the King!") even heard on the streets of Paris and a glittering Palace of Versailles dinner hosted by President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday.

In his speech, Charles recalled his mother Queen Elizabeth II, whom he succeeded upon her death one year ago, describing her legacy for France-UK relations as a "golden thread which will forever shine brightly" and saying the royal family was "moved beyond measure" by tributes to her from France.

"For the time that is granted to me as King, I pledge to do whatever I can to strengthen the indispensable relationship between the United Kingdom and France," he said.

"Quite simply, the United Kingdom will always be one of France's closest allies and best friends," he said, speaking from a lectern adorned with British, French and EU flags.

- 'Catastrophic destruction' -

Charles suggested that France and Britain join forces to tackle the climate and biodiversity emergencies with a new version of the Entente Cordiale, the 1904 pact that sealed the friendship between Paris and London.

"I would like to propose it also becomes an 'Entente pour la Durabilite' (Partnership for Sustainability) in order to tackle the global climate and biodiversity emergency more effectively," he said.

He also vowed that London and Paris were "steadfast in our determination Ukraine will triumph" in fighting the Russian military operation.

"Just as we stand together against military aggression, so must we strive together to protect the world from our most existential challenge of all -- that of global warming, climate change and the catastrophic destruction of nature," said the king, known for campaigning on environmental issues in the past decades.

By coincidence, Charles' latest call on the environment came a day after Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak watered down green policies aimed at achieving net zero carbon emissions by mid-century.

His speech will also be etched in history as the first British monarch to speak in the main chamber of the Senate: his mother spoke in a conference hall within the Senate in a 2004 speech.

"Applause we can only dream of in our chambers!" said Senate speaker Gerard Larcher after lawmakers rose to their feet in unison after the speech as lower-house speaker Yael Braun-Pivet laughed in agreement.

- Notre-Dame homage -

Charles then visited the northern Paris suburb of Saint-Denis -- home to the French national stadium used for the current Rugby World Cup and the Olympics next year -- meeting residents and visiting its majestic medieval basilica.

He met the president of the Qatari-owned football club Paris Saint-Germain, Nasser al-Khelaifi, who gave Charles a PSG jersey with "Charles" and the number three on the back.

Charles then rejoined Queen Camilla and French First Lady Brigitte Macron -- who even briefly played ping-pong together while visiting a sports center.

Later on the Ile de la Cite on the river Seine, Charles —- a keen gardener who once admitted he talked to his plants —- toured a flower market named after Queen Elizabeth II on her last state visit in 2014.

He and Camilla then greeted a crowd of well-wishers while walking to the nearby Notre Dame Cathedral, which was partially destroyed by a devastating fire in 2019.

Joined again by the Macrons, they were shown the renovation and reconstruction work at the church, visiting in particular a gargoyle workshop.

At a climate and biodiversity financing conference at the Natural History Museum, Macron hailed Charles' "clear vision you had and you have" on environmental issues.

The French president is known to have a strong personal rapport with Charles, with both men sharing a love of books.

Commentators in France excitedly noted how Macron repeatedly touched Charles' shoulder and his wife kissed Camilla, in a new protocol unthinkable under the more distant and austere Elizabeth II.

In one of his final engagements in Paris, Charles was due to meet luxury goods tycoon Bernard Arnault, head of LVMH and one of the world's richest men.

Charles' visit wraps up Friday with a trip to the southwestern city of Bordeaux.