analysis

Analysis: The next king of the UK is a passionate advocate for climate action

The then Prince Charles addressed the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow last year. Photo credit: PA Images.

By Anders Lorenzen

The world and especially the British Isles and the Commonwealth was shocked when Buckingham Palace on Thursday afternoon announced that the British Monarch Queen Elizabeth the II had passed away at the age of 96.

Her eldest son, Prince Charles who will now be known as King Charles the III, has immediately taken over reigning as the head of the British State. He has, by many, been seen as a controversial character due to his often outspoken views on matters not usually spoken about by royals, and there have been speculations as to how he will conduct himself once he is head of state.

The green Prince

One of the areas Charles is most deeply passionate about is climate change and the natural world. His interest in protecting the natural world goes back decades. 

As the Prince of Wales, he campaigned, championed and took part in high-profile political lobbying around climate and other sustainability issues.

When the UK recently went through record-setting extreme heat waves, the Prince said: “As I have tried to indicate for quite some time, the climate crisis really is a genuine emergency and tackling it is utterly essential”. 

He also addressed the recent UN climate summit held in Glasgow last year, in which he talked about the existential threats caused by climate change and biodiversity loss.

And there are numerous other examples in which he has spoken out about the climate crisis, the loss of nature and how time is running out to mitigate the challenges we all face. 

Engaging in green issues as a King

Now that he has formally become King, the big question is whether Charles can and still will remain openly engaged in these issues?

When Charles spoke to the nation in his first TV address since becoming King, he acknowledged he can no longer speak out about issues of interest in the ways he used to. 

The King can for example not criticise the government or involve himself in government policies.  But this does not in itself mean, however, that he can’t advocate for positive change. Many climate advocates would argue that he should be allowed to speak out on climate change and that the issue itself is not political – it is government policies that are. And there are other ways his passion for climate change could be utilised. For instance, when visiting the countries he is the head of state of and all the countries that are still part of the Commonwealth, he could do so could be with a renewed climate and nature focus.

Greening the Royal Estate

And at home, specifically within the land managed by the Royal Estate, there is a lot there could be done. The castles, buildings and land the Royal Family owns could see greener practices for how they’re being run. 

In addition, the naturalist and broadcaster Chris Packham is spearheading a campaign to rewild part of the Royal Estate. The campaign has influential backers and with the King’s passion for this, it could have some traction. 

It’s early days, and time will tell whether he will carry on his climate change passions as a King. But it is worth noting, that many of his engagements will be private and conversations will take place behind closed doors and unlikely the media and the public will know of them especially those such as his weekly audience with the UK Prime Minister, a unique opportunity to privately discuss policy issues with the Prime Minister. 

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