Princes Charles urges Solomons to embrace 'bio-economy'

Honiara (AFP) –


Prince Charles called on the Solomon Islands to better protect its forests Monday, saying embracing the "bio-economy" was vital to the Pacific nation's future prosperity.

Environmental groups warn the Solomons' lush forests are being stripped by logging, with fears the devastation will intensify after Honiara switched its diplomatic allegiance in September from Taiwan to resource-hungry China.

Charles did not directly address the issues in the logging sector but said the Solomons -- where less than 50 percent of the population have access to electricity -- was rich in "natural capital" such as trees and fisheries.

He said this meant the Pacific island nation could lead the world in environmental sustainability, attracting ethical green investment from offshore and boosting tourism.

"It is becoming apparent that the bio-economy is going to be of enormous importance," the first in line to the British throne said.

"Your precious forests, smartly managed, offer a rich and durable source of income as a uniquely sustainable supply of biodiversity for the new technologies that are already emerging.

"At the same time, they play an indispensible role in improving our shared resilience to climate change."

A report from environmental campaigners Global Witness last year said forests in the Solomons were being cut down at a rate 19 times higher than sustainable levels, with most logs going to China.

It said the dense jungle that covers many of the archipelago's coral atolls could be gone by 2036.

Charles has been outspoken on environmental issues during his trip, telling an audience in Christchurch that the world was reaching a "tipping point" on climate change.

He will return to Britain this week, where the royal family are still reeling from the outcry over Prince Andrew's television interview in which he discussed his friendship with the late convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.