The Prince of Wales has warned that the coronavirus pandemic will not be the last unless more effort is put into healing the natural world.

He suggested that by ignoring humanity’s intrinsic links with nature, we were increasingly making ourselves “vulnerable to all sorts of diseases and problems.”

The Prince admitted he thought he might be dead before people took him seriously on the environment, a reference to the 50 years he has campaigned for a greener world.

In an interview with CNN, he also hailed the vaccine as “critical” to ensure a way out of the pandemic and said he would “absolutely” have it when it was his turn.

The heir to the throne had earlier unveiled his biggest environmental initiative to date, the Terra Carta, or Earth Charter, a ten-point recovery plan for the private sector.

The treaty has already been signed by businesses including HSBC, Unilever, BlackRock, Astra Zeneca and Heathrow Airport.

“Planetary health and nature’s health is intimately linked to our own health,” he told CNN.

“The more we destroy the natural world around us and biodiversity, on which we depend in its infinite variety, the more we encourage mass extinctions of species that we don’t realise we depend on.

“This pandemic won’t be the last one if we are not very careful. That is why it’s critical to heal the natural world as well as ourselves. This is why we can’t ignore it.”

The Prince, who gave his first keynote speech on the threat facing the environment in 1970, added: “It’s been an uphill battle to persuade people you can’t carry on doing the things we have been doing ad infinitum without a terrible price to pay.

The Prince giving his landmark speech on the environment in 1970

Credit: PA

“Unfortunately, as human beings we tend to leave everything until it’s virtually too late and you’re just about to fall off a cliff. 

“It’s only literally in the last 18 months or so that the mood has changed and people have become concerned suddenly about the situation we face.”

He said that despite greater awareness, there was still “a huge mountain to climb” in convincing people of the “existential threat” facing the world.

But he welcomed the fact that the US, under the Biden administration, was poised to rejoin the Paris climate agreement, saying it would make “an enormous difference.”

Also on Monday, the Prince pledged to bring together the Commonwealth to restore Africa’s natural landscape.

Speaking via videolink at the One Planet event in Paris, he highlighted the urgency needed to complete the Great Green Wall, an ambitious reforestation project that aims to plant 100m hectares of trees and other vegetation across the sub-Sahara.

The heir to the throne said the initiative had the potential to inspire investment in other critical areas including the Amazon and the Great Barrier Reef.

“It can also be instrumental not only in bringing together Commonwealth countries and the countries of La Francophonie around Natural Capital investment in general, but around landscape restoration in Africa in particular,” he said.

The Prince considers the project an example of the sort of "ambitious but practical" initiative that could inspire similar efforts elsewhere, particularly in the Commonwealth, a source said.