The Prince of Wales has said that time has “run out” to save the planet from man-made emissions as he stressed the importance of acting quickly to address the climate crisis.
He made the comments after touring a power research laboratory at Cambridge University, where he learned about work to develop eco-friendly planes.
Charles heard about the latest advances in the decarbonisation of flight on Tuesday’s visit to the Whittle Laboratory.
He donned ear defenders as he was shown a wind tunnel test of a prototype plane component.
The prince also listened to a series of talks from engineers as he toured the facility before a private meeting where the urgency of addressing the climate crisis was discussed.
Speaking after the meeting, he told a crowd of dignitaries, engineers and students: “We haven’t got time to waste.
“We have run out of time now to rescue this poor old planet from man-made emissions and all the complications we’re now facing, all the challenges we’re facing.
“So it is places like this, it is ingenious new ideas of how we decarbonise and produce the new engines, the new fuels for the future.
“And the future has to happen much quicker than it used to, that’s the problem, so we have to find the best ways to bring everybody together for once so we don’t have endless ‘argy-bargies’ about it but actually get down together.
“If you mount a military campaign, because you’re up against it you have to produce the answers, overnight practically.
“That is what I think is the challenge now.”
He said there is a “great deal more interest from the investment community” in how to help “drive forward the sustainable investment opportunities”.
The prince said it was his hope that this would happen, with the help of the “genius” of engineers at the centre.
Charles then unveiled a plaque to launch the new National Centre for Propulsion and Power, which is to be built alongside the lab and is due to open in 2022 with funding from the Aerospace Technology Institute.
As he did so, he said he wished the centre “every possible success because we all depend upon it to save this planet”.
The Whittle Laboratory was opened in 1973 by Sir Frank Whittle, whose original designs led to the development of today’s highly efficient systems that can power huge aircraft over long distances.
Over the past 50 years, the Whittle Laboratory has built industry partnerships with Rolls-Royce, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Siemens and played a crucial role in shaping the propulsion and power sectors.
The laboratory is collaborating with the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, of which Charles is royal founding patron, to raise the profile of the lab’s efforts to develop a world-first zero-carbon flight, to inspire greater industry ambition.
It is also working on technologies to enable decarbonisation across aviation and other sectors, and the innovations required to decarbonise the aviation industry to net zero by 2050.
It is designed to revolutionise technology development, making the process at least 10 times faster and cheaper.
It is aiming for rapid development for ultra-low emission aircraft and low carbon power generation, to cover around 80% of the UK’s future aerodynamic technology needs.
He's been interested in this area for almost longer than anybody elseEmily Shuckburgh, Cambridge Zero
Emily Shuckburgh, director of Cambridge Zero, the university’s climate change initiative, was in the meeting with Charles.
She said: “He’s been interested in this area for almost longer than anybody else, and he’s really been involved in thinking about sustainability and from an entire systems perspective – bringing together all the different players.
“He’s genuinely passionate about it.”
She said there is a “real urgency” to address the climate crisis and that the Whittle Laboratory is working to accelerate the innovation cycle in the aviation sector, where it normally “takes a really long time to produce new aircraft designs”.
“If there’s one overriding message that came out from the round-table just now, it’s that to achieve that (decarbonisation of flight on an accelerated timetable) you need to bring together all the different players: the academic community, the business and industry communities, the entire supply chain of that sector, and also the policy makers,” she said.
“But if you do so and do it in a framework that’s really inspiring innovation, then it’s actually really exciting and so actually responding to the climate challenge turns out to be really exciting and we can all get behind it and be enthusiastic about it.”