The Prince of Wales has praised Henry VIII as an early Green crusader, saying that he took an interest in sustainability towards the end of his reign.

Delivering this year’s Richard Dimbleby lecture at St James’s Palace, live on BBC One, Prince Charles pointed out that Henry VIII passed ‘the first piece of Green legislation in this country’: in 1543, he passed laws that prevented shipbuilders felling too many immature oak trees, in a move to protect forests.

Prince Charles said: ‘What was instinctively understood by many in King Henry’s time was the importance of working with the grain of nature to maintain the balance between keeping the earth’s natural capital intact, and sustaining humanity on its renewable income.’

The Prince of Wales warned that the next generation faces a ‘living hell’ unless the Government urgently tackles climate change, and added that ‘in failing the Earth, we are failing humanity.’

In his speech, Prince Charles blamed our consumerist society, ‘which comes at an enormous cost to the Earth, and we must face up to the fact that the Earth cannot afford to support it’, and he called for a new Age of Sustainability to replace our current Age of Convenience.

‘Just as our banking sector is struggling with its debts, so Nature’s life-support systems are failing to cope with the debts with have built up there, too. If we don’t face up to this, then Nature, the biggest bank of all, could go bust. And no amount of quantitative easing will revive it.’

Prince Charles suggested that there should be greater financial incentives and disincentives for innovative business ideas, and that the Government should make more use of ‘community capital—the networks of people and organisations, the post offices and pubs, the churches and village halls, the mosques, temples and bazaars’.

He also called for a return to ‘old-fashioned, traditional virtues’ in terms of planning and building of settlements, in order to create ‘sustainable urbanism’. Prince Charles noted in his speech that his ancestor, Henry VIII, exhibited ‘an interest in architecture that may possibly be hereditary’.

The Prince of Wales has always taken a keen interest in architecture, controversially opposing new designs for the Chelsea Barracks earlier this year. He also has strong environmental credentials, creating the Duchy Originals brand as part of his interest in organic farming and publishing details of his own carbon footprint and efforts to reduce his household’s carbon emissions.

Prince Charles’ father, the Duke of Edinburgh, gave the Dimbleby lecture 20 years ago. It is understood that Mr Dimbleby’s son, Jonathan, who wrote a biography of Prince Charles in 1994, asked him to speak this year.

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