The monarch, known for his decades of climate campaigning, is the only head of state who will address world leaders at this year’s summit.
He reminded the 167 world leaders present on Friday that “the Earth does not belong to us, we belong to the Earth”, and that this is an “unmissable opportunity” to act together to safeguard the planet.
Pointing out how much worse the climate crisis has become in just the last few years, King said: “Our choice now is a starker – and darker – one: how dangerous are we actually prepared to make our world?”
But critics say his powerful words may have been undone by prime minister Sunak and his newly-appointed foreign secretary and one-time prime minister Lord Cameron.
As Action Aid’s senior climate and resilience advisor Zahra Hdidou, pointed out: “While we value the King’s commitments towards tackling climate change, his ambition is deeply compromised by his own government.
“The irony should not be lost that the King is flanked at the summit by two men who remain committed to climate-wrecking policies.”
Sunak also banned the King from attending last year’s COP, and only U-turned on attending himself after his predecessor Boris Johnson decided to go.
She continued: “On the other side, the King is joined by a foreign secretary who swiftly abandoned his own promise to lead the greenest government on record just three years after being elected in 2010.”
Cameron promised his would be the “greenest government ever” but then told his officials to “cut the green crap” in 2013. Analysis from Carbon Brief suggests cutting climate policies actually added £2.5 billion to UK energy bills.
Hadidou suggested that Charles “uses his influence to persuade both men to abandon their reckless, anti-climate policies” behind the scenes.
Meanwhile, Global Justice Now’s Izzie McIntosh, said the King’s “warnings are meaningless unless the UK government backs them up with actions.”
She pointed out how Sunak has rolled back net zero plans and claims he is “fiddling the figures” on climate finance, after accusations the PM has changed its definition to meet the UK’s £11.6 billion target.
McIntosh concluded: “Rich polluting countries saying the right thing while doing the wrong thing has become all too familiar over 30 years of climate summits – the only difference this time is that in Charles and Rishi it’s a deceitful double act.”
The King, Sunak and Cameron chartered three different private jets to attend the UAE summit.
No.10 was even forced to respond to criticism over this carbon-heavy travel, saying the government is “not anti-flying”, and “it is important” the UK is well-represented at the summit so it can still be a world leader in tackling the climate crisis.
It’s also worth remembering that Sunak has failed to fill the climate envoy role after Nick Bridge resigned in April.
Without such a specialist diplomat in the room at COP, the UK’s role will be significantly weakened at this year’s talks.
The UK will subsequently be an outlier among other countries – including large carbon emitters like the US, China, UAE and Russia – who have climate envoys for the annual summit.