King Charles III delivers an address at the opening ceremony of the World Climate Action Summit during COP28 on December 01, 2023 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The King is visiting Dubai to attend COP28 UAE, the United Nation's Climate Change Conference.  (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
CNN  — 

King Charles III told world leaders Friday that the warning signs of the climate crisis are being ignored and that the world is heading for “dangerous uncharted territory,” with devastating consequences for lives and livelihoods.

Delivering an opening address to delegates at the World Climate Action Summit, part of the COP28 summit in Dubai, the King said he prayed “with all my heart that COP28 will be a critical turning point towards genuine transformational action.”

“Some important progress has been made but it worries me greatly that we remain so dreadfully far off track,” he said, adding, “we are taking the natural world outside balanced norms and limits and into dangerous uncharted territory.”

Referring to this year’s climate change-fueled extreme weather, including Canada’s unprecedented wildfire season, deadly flooding in Pakistan and Bangladesh and catastrophic drought in East Africa, the King told delegates that the “hope of the world” rested on decisions taken at the summit.

“We are carrying out a vast, frightening experiment of changing every ecological condition all at once as a pace that far outstrips nature’s ability to cope,” he said.

The King called for a series of measures, including a ramp-up of public and private finance, to tackle the climate crisis and rapidly increase renewable energy.

“In 2050, our grandchildren won’t be asking what we said, they will be living with the consequences of what we did or didn’t do,” he said. “The Earth does not belong to us, we belong to the Earth,” he added.

Friday marked the King’s first big speech on climate change since he became monarch last year. The King did not attend last year’s COP27 summit in Egypt, after the then UK Prime Minister, Liz Truss advised him against going. CNN understood at the time that, the monarch and government jointly agreed that the climate summit wasn’t the right occasion for the King’s first trip overseas as sovereign.

UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who has already spoken at the ceremony, announced a $30 billion green investment fund, “designed to bridge the climate finance gap.”

Developing nations have long pushed the rich world to channel more financing to the global south to help it make the green transition. He spoke in Dubai, where the UAE is hosting the talks.

cop28 video explainer
See how 28 years of COP climate summits have unfolded in 2 minutes
02:01 - Source: CNN

After a year of record global temperatures, fueling deadly extreme weather, the pressure is high at COP28 for leaders to make ambitious progress on tackling the climate crisis. But countries still remain divided about the role fossil fuels, the main driver of climate change, will play in the future.

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COP28, which opened Thursday, started with a significant development as countries formally adopted a damage fund, decades in the making, to help nations hit hardest by the climate crisis.

Among countries making immediate commitments were the United Arab Emirates and Germany, both of which pledged $100 million, and the UK, which announced £60million, part of which will be used for “other arrangements,” according to the news release. The US announced a commitment of $17.5 million, which some experts and advocacy groups said was “embarrassing.”

On Friday, leaders of 134 countries — which together produce 70% of the world’s food — including the US, the European Union and Brazil, signed a declaration pledging to include food in their climate change plans by 2025. It marks the first time a COP summit leaders’ declaration has focused on food and the climate crisis.

Food systems are responsible for around a third of global planet-warming pollution. At the same time, agriculture is increasingly vulnerable to extreme weather events, which climate change is making more frequent and more intense.