King Charles Welcomes Hundreds of Leaders for COP27 Kickoff Reception at Buckingham Palace

king charles
king charles

Jonathan Brady/AP/Shutterstock

King Charles III knows how to host!

The King, 73, kicked off the weekend with a festive reception at Buckingham Palace Friday, welcoming over 200 leaders to mark the start of a climate change conference. The celebration commemorated the end of the U.K.'s presidency of the 26th U.N. Climate Change meeting, abbreviated as COP26, which was held in Glasgow, Scotland last fall. The reception also signaled the start of the next cycle, as the COP27 Summit begins in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, on Sunday.

Guests in attendance included the new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, COP President Alok Sharm, former Secretary of State John Kerry, who currently serves as the first-ever U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate under President Joe Biden, and Stella McCartney, whose namesake label has long been committed to sustainable fashion.

The get-together was held to discuss sustainable growth, environmental strides made since COP26 and next steps in the fight against climate change. The newly elected U.K. premier made a short speech, and King Charles chatted with guests about climate change, their plans for COP27, and more. In a key outcome from COP26, almost 200 countries agreed to the Glasgow Climate Pact, pledging to limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees.

King Charles III, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Stella McCartney,John Kerry
King Charles III, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Stella McCartney,John Kerry

PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo

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It was previously confirmed that the monarch, who has been a passionate environmentalist since the 1970s, would not attend the international climate change conference.

While Sunak, 42, reversed an initial decision not to attend the summit following criticism and will now be going, the BBC reported, plans remain the same for the King.

king charles, john kerry
king charles, john kerry

Jonathan Brady/AP/Shutterstock

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"As has been made clear previously, in unanimous agreement with Government His Majesty will not be attending COP27. His focus is on the pre-COP reception at Buckingham Palace this Friday, where senior business leaders, experts and NGOs can discuss the important work of the summit and explore ways in which public-private partnership can help tackle climate change," a palace spokesperson said in a statement shared with PEOPLE.

"His Majesty looks forward to hosting the Prime Minister and other global leaders at the event," they added.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak makes a statement after taking office outside Number 10 in Downing Street
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak makes a statement after taking office outside Number 10 in Downing Street

Leon Neal/Getty Images

During the record heat wave that swept the U.K. over the summer, Charles spoke out on the "alarming" temperatures across Europe.

The senior royal made a speech while visiting Cornwall with his wife, Queen Camilla. In addition to sharing some humorous anecdotes — including one about his late father, Prince Philip — Charles addressed the serious matter of climate change amid the record-breaking heatwave. According to the BBC, London Heathrow saw record-breaking temperatures of 104°F in mid-July, soaring above the previous high of 101°F in 2019.

Prince Charles
Prince Charles

Chris Jackson - Pool/Getty Prince Charles

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Speaking about the Duchy of Cornwall's goal to achieve net zero carbon emissions, Charles said, "If I may so say, those commitments around net zero have never been more vitally important as we all swelter under today's alarming, record temperatures across Britain and Europe. As I have tried to indicate for quite some time, the climate crisis really is a genuine emergency and tackling it is utterly essential — for Cornwall, the country and the rest of the world."

The sovreign inherited his great passion for environmental causes from his father, Prince Philip. Both of the new King's sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, have also taken on the fight.