A "Voice In The Wilderness" Speech, With Footnotes

Use this as a model for your own

The speech I’ve chosen for you was delivered by a prominent British man, as the keynote speech to billionaires and world leaders gathered at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Only somebody very important, powerful or influential gets to give the keynote speech at Davos. His subject was huge: “the greatest threats humanity has ever faced” (as he put it in his second paragraph).

You can read the text of the speech further down this page, with clickable footnotes, or read it here as a digital booklet:

I include this speech because I just happened to catch sight of it, live on TV. There aren’t many speeches that get broadcast live, and in full. I also admire and generally agree with the speaker, Prince Charles. But I was disappointed by the speech, as I shall attempt to explain.

But before you read my commentary at the end of this document, I strongly suggest that you read the speech – several times, if necessary, and at least once out loud.


Keynote speech by HRH The Prince of Wales

World Economic Forum, Davos, 2020

Ladies and gentlemen, I am most touched that Professor Klaus Schwab1 should have invited me to be with you as we mark the 50th anniversary of the World Economic Forum and its mission to “improve the state of the world”. It is this mission, and the urgent need to shape the next 50 years, that has inspired me to be with you here today, after an absence of 30 years I hate to tell you2.

We are in the midst of a crisis that is now, I hope, well understood. Global warming, climate change, and the devastating loss of biodiversity are the greatest threats humanity has ever faced – and one largely of our own creation.

I have dedicated much of my life to the restoration of harmony between humanity, nature and the environment, and to the encouragement of corporate social and environmental responsibility. Quite frankly, it has been a bit3 of an uphill struggle4. But, now, it is time to take it to the next level.

In order to secure our future and to prosper, we need to evolve our economic model. Having been engaged in these issues since I suppose5 1968, when I made my first speech on the environment, and having talked to countless experts across the globe over those decades, I have come to realise that it is not a lack of capital that is holding us back, but rather the way in which we deploy it. Therefore, to move forward, we need nothing short of a paradigm shift6, one that inspires action at revolutionary levels and pace. With this in mind, I am delighted to be launching a Sustainable Markets Initiative, with the generous support of the World Economic Forum.

For me, Sustainable Markets offer a new systems-level framework7 which ground markets in a higher purpose mission – in other words, putting people and planet at the heart of global value creation8.

Sustainable markets generate long-term value through the balance of natural, social, human and financial capital. Systems-level change within sustainable markets is driven by consumer and investor demand, access to sustainable alternatives and an enhanced partnership9 between the public, private and philanthropic sectors. Sustainable markets can also inspire the technology, innovation and scale that we so urgently need.

The past decade has shown us just how quickly industry transformation can happen when you reimagine and re-engineer the business model – we need only look to mobile technology, electric vehicles, the space industry, e-commerce and online streaming for inspiration. Looking forward, new employment opportunities, entire new industries and markets rooted in sustainability are within our grasp, with the potential for unprecedented economic growth10.

Changing our current trajectory will require bold and imaginative action11, together with determination and decisive leadership. We all know the problem, and increasingly we agree on the direction. 2020 is the time for solutions and practical action. With our SDG [Sustainable Development Goals] and Paris commitments in mind – and the good news is that they are well within our reach if, ladies and gentlemen, we all pull together in a coordinated global initiative to tackle the greatest global threat – I would like to outline 10 practical actions12 that will drive forward the sustainable markets approach.

First of all: shifting our default setting to “sustainable”. For sustainable markets this means everyone in a leadership role putting genuine sustainability at the centre of our business models, our analysis, our decisions and our actions. In other words, put simply, we need to put nature, and the protection of nature’s capital – from which we draw an annual return – at the heart of how we operate. It also means further defining and developing the discipline and framework of sustainable markets and sustainable industries.

Second: outlining responsible transition pathways13 to decarbonise and move to net zero. It is time for businesses, industries and countries alike to design and implement how they will decarbonise and transition to net zero. Moving together, with clear roadmaps14, will create efficiencies and economies of scale that will allow us to leapfrog our collective progress and accelerate our transition. A little competition in this area could go a long way.

Third: reimagining industries through the lens of sustainable markets. Using a sustainable markets framework, we have an incredible opportunity to create entirely new sustainable industries, products, services and supply chains, based on a circular bioeconomy, while in parallel helping to transition our existing systems. To do this we must look at our markets using a business model approach to revenue generation and system operations15.

Fourth16: identifying game-changers and barriers to transition. We need to identify, showcase and invest in the game-changing technologies and solutions that are emerging around the world. To accelerate, we must also identify the barriers to progress, be it policy, regulation, infrastructure, investment or the wider enabling environment. Often, I have found, it is simply about bringing the right people together17 to help lift those roadblocks out of the way. This convening role is, I hope, at least one practical contribution my Sustainable Markets Initiative can make. Because it is only by seeking out these game-changers and barriers that we will be able to make tangible progress.

Fifth: reversing perverse subsidies18 and improving incentives for sustainable alternatives. To achieve scale within sustainable markets we must not be afraid to adapt our long-standing incentive structures if we are to reap the benefits afforded by a more sustainable world. Re-orientating economic subsidies, financial incentives and regulations can have a dramatic and transformative effect on our market systems. It is time to level the playing field19 and to think about how we properly deploy taxes, policies and regulation in a way that catalyses sustainable markets. For instance, for many years I have tried20 to encourage the adoption of the “polluter pays” principle in order to provide the necessary incentives. Public policy, therefore, has a critical role to play.

Sixth: investing in STEM, innovation and R and D [research and development]. Whether it is AI (where that does not seek to challenge or replace unique human characteristics and intuition), or indeed nuclear fusion, 3D printing, energy storage, electric transportation, carbon capture, renewables or biotech. We are on the verge of catalytic breakthroughs that will alter our view of what is possible – and profitable – within the framework of a sustainable future. To move forward, we must acknowledge that sustainability and profitability are no longer mutually exclusive21. Effective solutions must ensure that sustainable technologies and alternatives are competitively priced.

Seventh: investing in nature as the true engine of our economy. Beyond major innovations and technologies, we must also look to invest in nature-based solutions in sectors like agriculture, forestry and fisheries – indeed, for all the resources that we take from the Earth. Nature’s contribution to the global economy is estimated to be worth more than $125 trillion annually –greater than the entire world’s annual GDP, estimated at $85.91 trillion in 201822. Building conservation and nature-based solutions into our asset base and supply chains can, therefore, offer significant economic growth opportunities for countries and businesses alike – including in areas such as the circular bioeconomy, ecotourism and green public infrastructure. If, ladies and gentlemen, we valued our natural capital properly (as I have been trying to say for quite a long time23), our national and individual balance sheets might look very different indeed!

Eighth: adopting common metrics and standards. An increasing number of corporations are adopting ESG [environment, social and governance] methodologies and highlighting their SDG-aligned investments. However, it is time to move to unified metrics and global standards. People want to trust that the goods and services they buy are socially, environmentally and ethically produced. Through new technologies we have the ability to tag, track and trace supply chains in unprecedented ways – so it is time to make this level of supply chain transparency the norm.

Ninth: making the sustainable options the trusted and attainable options for consumers. With consumers controlling an estimated 60 per cent of global GDP, people around the world have the power to drive the transformation to sustainable markets. Yet, we cannot expect consumers24 to make sustainable choices if these choices are not clearly laid before them. As consumers increasingly demand sustainable products, they deserve to be told more about product lifecycles, supply chains and production methods. For a transition to take place, being socially and environmentally conscious cannot only be for those who can afford it. If all the true costs are taken into account, being socially and environmentally responsible should be the least expensive option because it leaves the smallest footprint behind. We must communicate better with consumers about the sustainability of the goods, services and investments we offer.

Tenth: connecting investments to investables using platforms that can rapidly scale solutions25. On every pressing issue we face, there are solutions that are not just available, but increasingly cost effective. At the same time there are trillions of dollars in sovereign wealth funds, pension funds, insurance, and asset portfolios looking for investible and sustainable projects with good long-term value and rates of return. It is time to align sustainable solutions with funding in a way that can transform the market place. This requires not only showcasing high potential investments, but that we reimagine financial analysis, structuring and models of return.

Now if we all accept that a profitable, yet sustainable, future is the desired end state – the questions we must ask are: How quickly can we get there and who are the leaders who will drive us forward?

I submit that we are, in fact, far further ahead than we might think, making it critical that we leverage the vital work already underway. I would therefore like to highlight just a few examples26 to demonstrate that in nearly every industry we are seeing progress that we can build on.

To start with, despite great efforts over the past 35 years, I have found that we could never convince financial and capital markets of the overwhelming need to invest in ways that truly benefit people and planet. Yet, in the last two or three years, we have seen a dramatic increase in sustainable investing. Investment managers frequently tell me that the demand for these investments far outstrip supply. At the same time, returns on sustainable investments are increasingly out-performing traditional portfolios.

In the financial sector, many central banks and financial institutions have committed to integrating climate risk into stress-testing, supervision and disclosure. With this progress there are now growing calls from financial institutions and companies alike to make disclosure mandatory.

In aviation, there are opportunities to develop commercially viable, hydrogen-powered and electric aircraft within the decade. In the interim, many in the industry are ready to adopt Sustainable Aviation Fuel made from waste material that can reduce carbon emissions – starting today.

In shipping, the manufacturers of ship engines are proposing it may take two to three years to build engines that run on green ammonia and methanol made from solar and wind power. These ships could start operations27 in the middle of the decade and become the norm around 2030. This hasn’t all been certified and tested, but if the industry and the regulators make a real effort, we can make it work – creating a real tipping point.

In renewable energy, we are witnessing breakthroughs in the cost of solar that have the potential to revolutionise almost every industry. We are rapidly approaching a time when renewable energy will be an order of magnitude cheaper than fossil fuels28.

In carbon capture and storage, there are a growing number of initiatives that might just buy us vital time as we make our transition to sustainable markets and a net zero economy.

In forestry, ladies and gentlemen29, we can now transform wood, the most versatile natural material on the planet, into a new generation of wood-based products capable of offering alternatives to plastics, chemicals, textiles, transport and construction. Increasingly, we are seeing that the bioeconomy has the potential to ignite new industries and fuel sustainable markets – thus providing, at last, the economic incentive to value the vastly important eco-system services provided by the immense biodiversity and carbon-capture potential of restored and expanded forests, along with huge opportunities in integrated agro-forestry systems.

When the right sustainable goods and services are developed, proved and affordable, the choice to adopt them will become obvious. Truly to seize these opportunities, we need to visualise the future and have the confidence to invest in it.

If there is one critical lesson we have to learn from this crisis it is that nature, ladies and gentlemen, is not a separate asset class30. Nature is, in fact, the life blood of our financial markets and, as such, we must – rapidly – re-align our own economy to mimic nature’s economy and work in harmony with it.

After nearly 50 years of trying to champion this cause, I cannot help but feel that, finally, we are ready to change our trajectory.

For my part, I have made Sustainable Markets my priority for 2020 and actually beyond – for however long it takes. I have instructed my teams and my organisations similarly to align with this effort – and I expect them to contribute. With the stakes this high31, I would challenge you to do the same.

And, critically, we must foster innovation – and here, if you will allow me, I would like to acknowledge the new Earthshot initiative of my son, The Duke of Cambridge32, which seems to me to extol the sort of horizon-lifting approach we need in order to give us hope.

Beginning here at Davos, and throughout the year – and in order to identify game-changers, investments and barriers to transition – I will be convening a broad range of industry and issue roundtables including, but not limited to: aviation; water; carbon capture and storage; shipping; forestry; plastics; financing; digital technology; the bioeconomy; nature-based solutions; renewable energy; batteries, storage and electric vehicles; fisheries; integrated healthcare; cement; steel; traceability and labelling; and agriculture – at the end of which I shall probably be dead33.

So ladies and gentlemen, as we look to design and create sustainable markets and industries, these round-tables will bring together system innovators, investors and decision-makers to start designing and charting the course.

I believe profoundly in the critical importance, at this juncture, of forming an unprecedented global alliance of investors which can genuinely mobilise the kind of trillions of dollars needed to put our economy on the correct path. This would be the most dramatic act of responsible leadership34 ever seen by the global private sector and would at once provide a catalytic incentive for the public sector to follow.

With 2020 being seen as the “super year”, kick-starting a decade of action for people and planet, there is also an opportunity to bring sustainable markets into focus in each of this year’s major global meetings. While it will be a bit of a challenge35 for me to get to them all, I intend to do my utmost to ensure that the message of urgency, systemic change, collaboration and integration is heard.

After all, ladies and gentlemen, do we want to go down in history as the people who did nothing36 to bring the world back from the brink in time to restore the balance when we could have done? I don’t want to. And just think for a moment – what good is all the extra wealth in the world, gained from “business as usual”, if you can do nothing with it except watch it burn in catastrophic conditions?

This is why I need your help37, your ingenuity and your practical skills to ensure that the private sector leads the world out of the approaching catastrophe into which we have engineered ourselves.

It is my greatest possible hope that you will join me this year in accelerating the transition to sustainable markets and rapid decarbonisation – ladies and gentlemen, you all have a seat at the table38 as this must be the year that we put ourselves on the right track.

Everything I have tried to do, and urge, over the past 50 years has been done with our children and grandchildren in mind, because I did not want to be accused by them of doing nothing except prevaricate and deny the problem. Now, of course, they are accusing us39 of exactly that. Put yourselves in their position, ladies and gentlemen. We simply cannot waste any more time – the only limit is our willingness to act, and the time to act is now.

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.

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General Observations by JPF

The nature of the audience

The audience included many powerful and influential leadership figures from government, business and finance; the world’s media, and (not present in Davos but watching around the world) people who may not care for the rich and powerful but do care about the environment. Plainly, this last group is likely to disagree with the first – but in fact they all have their differences, and the speech needs to persuade them to see beyond those differences for the greater good.

Praise v blame

Considering the speech as a specimen of forensic rhetoric, in which praise or blame are dished out, it’s only fair to Prince Charles to observe that he has spent his lifetime under pressure not to say anything undiplomatic, about anybody at all. So who, or what, is Prince Charles’s rhetorical adversary – and does he make use of that in advancing his case?

Clear sense of values

Does he clearly indicate that specific values unite him and his audience (or part of it)? Are these values that anybody anywhere else would (ever) object to? If not, does he risk reciting platitudes?

Making choices

As for deliberative rhetoric (the future, and making choices), he says he is here to announce a new initiative by issuing invitations to a vast series of round-table meetings. Can you see anything else?

Who is the speaker?

Prince Charles’s main credential is established without needing to be stated: he’s a future king, and future head of the Anglican church. But he does give us other things to take into account: he has been talking about this topic for 50 years, he says, and previously spoke at Davos 30 years ago. He has met and spoken to many powerful people around the world. His team already do the things he’s proposing others should do. He has a son who has launched a related initiative. Additionally, he uses a s0-British manner of self-deprecating understatement. In your opinion, are these things helpful to his cause? Are there others you think he could have used?

What is his logical argument?

The bulk of his argument is presented as a ten-point list. Do you understand why there are ten, or what the difference is between them? What other parts of the speech advance, or hinder, his logical argument? Do any of his assertions raise questions in your mind to which he doesn’t provide an answer?

Abstract v human

What do you think of the statistics he provides, and their source (if there is one)? Does he tell stories, showing real people? If so, do they get you on the edge of your seat, eager to hear the outcome? Does the speech move your emotions?


Towards the end, Prince Charles uses what I called so-British self-deprecation and understatement, when he says that to attend all the round-table meetings in person will be “a bit of a challenge”. Compare this with, say, Shakespeare’s Henry V urging his weary, outnumbered army into battle: “He today that sheds his blood with me,” says King Henry, “shall be my brother.” At first glance, the comparison between Prince Charles and Henry V at Agincourt may seem ridiculous, but consider what is at stake. The worst outcome for Henry V was his own death and that of a few hundred men. Prince Charles is talking about the greatest threats humanity has ever faced. (It doesn’t matter if you don’t believe this. It’s what he believes.)

Unsettle or reassure?

Plainly, Prince Charles did not come to Davos to terrify his audience. But he didn’t come to reassure either, because towards the end he asks, “do we want to go down in history as the people who did nothing to bring the world back from the brink in time”. The brink! This is quite a spot we find ourselves in. In your opinion, does his Davos speech do the job?

Please take some time to think this through. How might you have advised the prince, even if you haven’t a fragment of his wisdom or experience? As a specimen human being who has now read the transcript of his speech – perhaps several times, including once out loud – how might you have amended it, if every other would-be speech-writer had been wiped out and Prince Charles had absolutely nobody else to work with?

Until you’ve considered this, and made some notes (in the margins of the speech or elsewhere), please don’t read my own suggestions, in the following paragraphs. It will be more useful to you if, instead of just reading what I write, we compare notes.

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Modest Suggestions to HRH

To His Royal Highness Prince Charles Philip Arthur George, Prince of Wales, KG, KT, GCB, OM, AK, QSO, CC, PC, ADC, Earl of Chester, Duke of Cornwall, Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland

Your Royal Highness, I wonder if it might be a good idea, while keeping a bit of your charming and characteristic self-deprecation at the start, to remove it afterwards?

Looking at the speech as a whole, might you invent some kind of adversary – if not a real person then perhaps by personifying “Ignorance” as a sightless blundering monster that is leading us all to the brink?

Sir, I wonder if some of the abstract nouns might be replaced, by telling stories about real human beings doing specific things, in specific places, and experiencing real emotions? Perhaps you could show what you have been saying for years, and how events have proved you were right…?

Might I also recommend using a thesaurus, to lob in polished, witty turns of phrase here and there? A thesaurus might also help to polish up the corporate-style jargon and phrases that are stale (such as “level the playing field”).

I wonder if it might be possible to build a greater sense of urgency by referring to some kind of “ticking clock”, of the sort dramatists use. “If we don’t get this done by such-and-such a time, then this-that-and-the-other dreadful business will ensure.”

As much as anything to protect yourself, Your Royal Highness, I wonder if it might be wise to raise any questions your audience is likely to have, and immediately provide the best answer you can. I fear that the newspapers will ask tomorrow, after your speech, how you can justify flying to Davos on a private jet. You are a sensible man, and your environmental concerns are real. There must be a reason for taking the jet. By explaining, you would remove the opportunity for them to raise this question against you.

Could you give a stronger sense of what a struggle this has been for you – does it wake you up in the middle of the night? It’s generally believed that audiences care when they see that a speaker cares.

Finally, and I realise this may be going too far, I do rather like a bit of audience interaction. Could you, towards the beginning, ask for a show of hands in response to some questions? Audiences like to be noticed. Might you even invite a few people onto the stage with you, perhaps to demonstrate something? Or step away from the podium and down into the audience to hand round a selection of your Duchy Original biscuits?

These are just suggestions, Sir. The choice, of course, is yours.

Yours, John-Paul Flintoff Esq

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1 Professor Klaus Schwab. Does this really acknowledge the audience? Not only the audience at Davos, but anybody watching on TV?

2 I hate to tell you. Strangely downbeat petering out of the first paragraph.

3 Quite frankly, it has been a bit… Classic Prince Charles understatement. What is gained / what is lost by this tone?

4 struggle. As a storyteller I like the sound of struggle – I hope to hear more about how awful it was, and how you overcame it, turned it around etc…

5 suppose. What does this add, apart from a slight feeling of uncertainty?

6 paradigm shift. Cliche alert!

7 systems-level framework. Aaaargh, jargon.

8 global value creation. Jargon, hard to picture, and hard to measure too.

9 enhanced partnership. This is very abstract. I’m definitely losing interest.

10 unprecedented economic growth. This paragraph too contains nothing but abstractions – no specifics, no stories, no emotion. I’d love to hear even one sentence about a specific change in just one of those sectors, perhaps also a hint at his emotional response (“I’m so happy when I visit electric car factories and see X…”).

11 imaginative action. One of the classic signs of an abstract word is the ending “-tion”. In this paragraph we have action determination direction solution action. Closely related to these are words that (in other situations) might end with “-tion”: imaginative decisive coordinated initiative. There’s nothing wrong with those words, but too many of them together can be a sign for listeners to nod off.

12 10 practical actions. Oh good, something we can take action on!

13 responsible transition pathways. Does this sound exciting?

14 clear roadmaps. Cliche alert.

15 revenue generation and system operations. At this point, I have lost all goodwill and I’m tuning out. Only for the sake of this exercise am I continuing.

16 Fourth. My mind having drifted off, I find myself wondering how Prince Charles approached this. I’m sure he had people helping him to write it – or “helping” (they may not have shared his motives, may even have wanted to sabotage some of his ideas). In particular, I wonder what he hoped would be the impact of his speech. How did he want listeners to be changed by hearing it? On the face of it, his motivation is clear: he wants his audience (the people at Davos, if not all of us watching at home on TV) to sign up to his ten point plan. But I’m wondering if he has done enough to assess who his audience is, and what motivates them – why they aren’t doing these things already, and what he needs to tell them to provide the additional motivation.

17 bringing the right people together. Aha! A clue to what he is really doing with this speech… A very long way to say he’d like to create a gathering of like minds. But if that’s really all he intends to achieve by his speech, could he possibly abbreviate the ten points of his ten-point plan?

18 reversing perverse subsidies. Crying out for a specific example.

19 level the playing field. Cliche alert.

20 for many years I have tried. What’s gained by these words? Does it give a sense of failure, or nearly-there-at-last pluck and resolve?

21 we must acknowledge. Who is “we”?

22 $85.91 trillion in 2018. This is one of the sentences that makes me imagine a conversation taking place during the process of writing the speech, in which somebody pointed out that the listeners at Davos probably enjoy this kind of economics-talk. But is that enough to convey a sense that Prince Charles is specifically addressing these people, in this occasion, at this venue? I don’t see much sign of that. I suspect that the audience might be feeling rather lectured, and not very “seen”.

23 trying to say for quite a long time. Repeating himself – to what effect?

24 we cannot expect consumers. Who does he mean by “we”? Does he really mean “you”?

25 connecting investments to investables using platforms that can rapidly scale solutions. Aaaargh. I’ve mostly managed to numb myself to the jargon and abstracts, but suddenly I find myself wanting to complain. Sorry about that.

26 highlight just a few examples. Hurrah!

27 These ships could start operations. I’m happy to hear it, but even this phrase is deadly. What about saying, “I look forward to feeling the water beneath one of these ships, hearing the waves crash against its hull as it pushes out into the ocean…” or whatever. A bit of specific, concrete, emotionally charged language would be so refreshing.

28 cheaper than fossil fuels. “People everywhere will frantically pull out their gas boilers and install solar panels instead…” Or something like that, with human beings in the sentence, motivated by human emotion.

29 In forestry, ladies and gentlemen. Does “In forestry,” sound like a good way to open a sentence addressed to people at Davos? I’m not sure. The back end of this sentence seems to me more likely to appeal: “We are finding wonderful alternatives to plastics and chemicals in products derived from wood.” If the sentence is turned around in this way, I suspect that people at Davos might now be interested to hear more about forestry.

30 nature, ladies and gentlemen, is not a separate asset class. Yay! A line clearly directed to the people here at Davos.

31 With the stakes this high. Has the speech really demonstrated the high stakes?

32 my son, The Duke of Cambridge. Ah, well that’s nice. I’d like it even more if he said something a bit warmer, more fond / proud.

33 at the end of which I shall probably be dead. Woohoo – the point of the speech! Basically: having listened to me, you’re now invited to join my massive networking effort. There’s room for everyone. Plus, a joke to which the effort involved certainly entitles the speaker.

34 the most dramatic act of responsible leadership. Great, but it’s hard to see how any individual in this audience is going to feel, “yes, at last, I’m doing something heroic to help the planet”. By a slightly different wording, that kind of effect might have been possible. “My friends, I’m speaking to all of you, but I’m also speaking to each of you individually. Ask yourself, do you care enough to sign up? Will you be part of the most dramatic act of responsible leadership?…”

35 a bit of a challenge. That Prince Charlesy tone again.

36 go down in history as the people who did nothing. This is very good, motivating stuff. Should have come towards the very beginning, I think – because it creates urgency that is otherwise lacking.

37 I need your help. Good, clear call to action.

38 you all have a seat at the table. Great, welcoming. Sounds like a feast.

39 Now, of course, they are accusing us. This kind of firecracker at the beginning might have given me a greater willingness to listen to the more abstract bits.

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