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Queen urges COP26 leaders to think of 'our children's children'

Elizabeth, 95, made her speech to world leaders remotely via video after being advised to rest at home by doctors.
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LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II said Monday that "the time for words has now moved to the time for action" on reducing carbon emissions, and urged world leaders to think of future generations when negotiating at the United Nations climate summit in Scotland.

The 95-year-old queen had been scheduled to attend COP26 in person but instead delivered her message via video link after being advised to rest at home by doctors. She spent a night in a hospital for unspecified reasons last month.

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"It is the hope of many that the legacy of this summit — written in history books yet to be printed — will describe you as the leaders who did not pass up the opportunity, and that you answered the call of those future generations," she said.

Elizabeth said she hoped leaders would leave "this conference as a community of nations with a determination, a desire and a plan to address the impact of climate change; and to recognize that the time for words has now moved to the time for action."

COP26 aims to build on the legally binding pledges of the 2015 Paris Agreement, which aimed to keep global temperature rises to "well below" 2 degrees Celsius this century, preferably 1.5 degrees.

President Joe Biden is among many world leaders who say they want to make tackling climate change a priority. But promises made by global governments so far are putting the Earth on track for 2.7 degrees warming, according to a report released last week by the U.N. Environment Programme.

These temperature rises would likely trigger more extreme weather, and lead to rising seas that will imperil low-lying countries and cities, according to experts.

On the need to do more, the queen said Monday, "Of course, the benefits of such actions will not be there to enjoy for all of us here today: 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."

Elizabeth, who has met almost every U.S. president since she ascended to the throne in 1952, said what made the greatest world leaders "special" was based on "what they do for the people of tomorrow."

She also paid tribute to her late husband, Prince Philip, who died at 99 earlier this year. She remembered how he had warned an academic gathering in 1969 about the need to tackle issues surrounding pollution.

"If the world pollution situation is not critical at the moment," she quoted him as saying, "the situation will become increasingly intolerable within a very short time."

Prince Charles, who is heir to the throne, helped kick off the nearly two-week COP26 meeting in Glasgow.

An avid environmentalist, he called for countries to adopt a "warlike footing" in response to global warming.