The Queen has urged world leaders to “rise above the politics of the moment, and achieve true statesmanship” at the COP26 summit.
She ended with the poignant message that “none of us will live forever. But we are doing this not for ourselves but for our children and our children’s children, and those who will follow in their footsteps”.
The message from Her Majesty was played at an evening reception for world leaders to welcome them to Glasgow for COP26.
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Drawing on her decades of diplomatic experience, she said: “For more than seventy years, I have been lucky to meet and to know many of the world’s great leaders.
“And I have perhaps come to understand a little about what made them special.
“It has sometimes been observed that what leaders do for their people today is government and politics. But what they do for the people of tomorrow – that is statesmanship.
“I, for one, hope that this conference will be one of those rare occasions where everyone will have the chance to rise above the politics of the moment, and achieve true statesmanship.”
In a particularly moving moment, and following recent concerns about her health, the 95-year-old stressed the need for leaders to act now to tackle the climate crisis, not for their own benefits but for future generations.
She said: “Of course, the benefits of such actions will not be there to enjoy for all of us here today: we none of us will live forever. But we are doing this not for ourselves but for our children and our children’s children, and those who will follow in their footsteps.”
It was announced last week that the Queen wouldn’t be able to attend COP26 after her doctors told her rest for at least the next two weeks.
But the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were all present to help Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcome the global leaders.
In another heartwarming and personal moment the Queen talked about her pride in her own family for their enduring commitment to the environment, starting with Prince Philip.
She said: “I remember well that in 1969, he told an academic gathering: ‘If the world pollution situation is not critical at the moment, it is as certain as anything can be, that the situation will become increasingly intolerable within a very short time… If we fail to cope with this challenge, all the other problems will pale into insignificance.’
“It is a source of great pride to me that the leading role my husband played in encouraging people to protect our fragile planet, lives on through the work of our eldest son Charles and his eldest son William. I could not be more proud of them.”
The Queen was said to have regretfully pulled out of COP26, but didn’t want her absence to be an excuse for other world leaders not to attend.
She is understood to want the conference to result in meaningful actions, but made it clear in her speech that she realised it wouldn’t be easy: “None of us underestimates the challenges ahead: but history has shown that when nations come together in common cause, there is always room for hope. Working side by side, we have the ability to solve the most insurmountable problems and to triumph over the greatest of adversities.”
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