LONDON (AP) – On a blustery day last November, Britain’s future king stood before world leaders to issue a rallying cry that they should “act with all force and determination” to confront a common enemy.
The call – in a vast, windowless hall at the Glasgow Convention Center at the opening of a UN climate conference – addressed an issue long dear to the heart of then-Prince Charles.
Climate change and biodiversity loss were no different than the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the world, he said. “In fact, they pose an even greater existential threat, to the point where we have to put ourselves on what might be called war legs.”
He warned leaders that time is running out to cut emissions, urging them to push through reforms that “radically transform our current fossil fuel-based economy into one that is truly renewable and sustainable.”
“We need a massive military-style campaign to shore up the strength of the global private sector,” he said, adding that the trillions available to businesses would far exceed what governments could raise and offer “the only real prospect of achieving fundamental economic transition.”
It was a fierce call to arms in stark contrast to the gentle appeal made by his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, in a video message that evening.
For decades, Charles has been one of Britain’s most prominent environmentalists, fighting against pollution. Now that he is the monarch, he is required to be more careful with his words and must stay away from politics and government policy in line with the traditions of the British constitutional monarchy.
“Charles will have very little leeway now that he is king,” said Robert Hazel, an expert on British constitutional issues at University College London.
“All of his speeches were written or vetted by the government,” Hazell said. “If he makes an impromptu remark that appears to contradict government policy, the press will pounce on him to point out the inconsistency, and the government will rein him in; he will have to be far less open than he has been in the past.”
Still, many say they are unlikely to suddenly stop talking about climate change and the environment – not least because these are issues that transcend political ideology.
This is what Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said last week that it would be “perfectly acceptable” for the monarch to advocate for climate action, even though his role is meant to be apolitical.
“It is important that the monarchy distances itself from partisan political issues,” Albanese told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. “But there are issues like climate change that I think if he chooses to continue to make statements in that area, I think that’s perfectly acceptable.”
“It should be something that is above politics, the need to act on climate change,” he added.
Climate protection may be particularly difficult for Charles in light of the ambivalent attitude of the current Conservative government. While the government says it remains committed to the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to ‘net zero’ by mid-century, Energy Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg says Britain needs to keep burning the fossil fuels it has at its disposal.
“We have to think about getting every last cubic inch of gas out of the North Sea,” he said in a recent radio interview, citing the need for energy security.
In the past, Rees-Mogg has spoken out against building more onshore wind farms in Britain and questioned the effects that rising carbon dioxide emissions are having on the climate, although experts say the warming effects of rising CO2 levels are clear.
New British Prime Minister Liz Truss also supports the exploitation of the country’s natural gas reserves, including exploring fracking in parts of the UK to increase the country’s domestic gas reserves and reduce dependence on international gas prices. Earlier this month, the Truss government lifted a 2019 ban on the controversial practice of fracking for shale gas in England.
As environment secretary in 2014, Truss called large solar farms “a blight on the landscape” and scrapped subsidies for farmers and landowners to build them.
Speaking in a 2018 BBC documentary to mark Charles’ 70th birthday, his sons William and Harry revealed the frustration their father feels at the world’s failure to tackle environmental challenges. They recalled how, as teenagers, Charles made them buy junk during the holidays and was obsessed with turning off the lights.
Such small actions pale in comparison to the air miles the monarch has racked up over a lifetime of flying around the world – although he claims to have converted his Aston Martin to run on a surplus of white wine and cheese.
Charles’ lament that many people “just don’t pay attention to the science” of climate change has also been called out by those who point out that he has long been an advocate of unproven naturopathic therapies.
Some of Charles’s subjects want him to continue the fight against climate change, even as king.
However, the new king himself has admitted that his role as an eco-warrior cannot last, at least in its current form.
“I’m not that stupid,” he told the BBC four years ago when asked if he would continue his activism as before.
The prince’s battles are not royal, he explained, but he made it clear that they could still be fought by the next in line, Prince William.
In his first address as sovereign to the nation on September 9, Charles emphasized this, saying that “it will no longer be possible for me to give so much of my time and energy to the charities and causes that I care so deeply about.”
“But I know that this important work will be carried out in the reliable hands of others,” he added.
Like Charles, William, 40, has made climate change one of his main advocacy issues and last year made his mark by awarding the first Earthshot Prize, an ambitious “legacy project” the prince set up to award millions of pounds in grants to environmental initiatives across the world. of the world in the next 10 years. His efforts, however, have been undermined by criticism that his conservation charity has invested in a bank that is one of the world’s biggest backers of fossil fuels.
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