Will Charles III be a king as green as he was a prince? | King Charles III
In 1970, the young Prince of Wales gave a speech warning of the dangers of pollution and said society urgently had to face the cost of cleaning up and preventing it in the first place.
“We are currently facing the appalling effects of pollution in all its cancerous forms. There is the growing threat of oil pollution at sea, which is nearly destroying beaches and certainly destroying tens of thousands of seabirds,” he told the Countryside Steering Committee for Wales. “There is chemical pollution dumped into the rivers by factories and chemical plants, which clogs the rivers with toxic substances and adds to the filthiness of the seas. There is air pollution from the smoke and fumes emitted by factories and from the gases pumped out by endless cars and planes.
That speech, given when he was 21, was greeted as “dotty” at the time, he would later recall, but today seems prescient.
“He is perhaps the most important environmental figure of all time,” says environment campaign veteran Tony Juniper, former leader of Friends of the Earth and now director of Natural England, who has advised Charles for several years and co-wrote two books with him. . “Given the breadth of the issues on which he has sought to make progress and the consistency with which he has done so. For over 50 years he has shown commitment, energy and passion. He has incredible depth of knowledge and its impact has been absolutely huge.
For Charles, this worry began in childhood, notably at Balmoral, where the Queen, his mother, died this week. He developed a passion for the outdoors and an interest in farming, and in the 1980s started his Cornwall estate, Highgrove, on the path to regenerative organic farming, which led to the creation of the Duchy organic brand. He also created the Prince of Wales Corporate Leaders Group, which brings together business leaders to sign green pledges.
In the run-up to Cop26, for example, he invited US climate envoy John Kerry to Clarence House in London, a stark contrast to the government, which did not send a minister when Kerry delivered a major speech at Kew. He introduced the Terra Carta, or earth charter, of environmental goals. His work on rainforests and species conservation was also taken up by his son, Prince William.
This job got Charles in trouble. Jonathon Porritt, the former Green Party and Friends of the Earth leader who also advised Charles as Prince of Wales, recalls the mid-1980s when the UK dumped sewage into the North Sea . Charles spoke publicly about the issue, asking why he hadn’t been arrested.
“Nicolas Ridley [then environment secretary] was absolutely livid,” Porritt recalled. “He was furious that the Prince of Wales chose to use his profile in Europe to fire a broadside – although he [Charles] did not name Ridley or anyone in government.
Many people might think Charles overstepped the bounds of constitutional monarchy at times, his supporters acknowledge. In addition to his public speeches, there were private ‘black spider’ letters to government ministers raising concerns about ecological and other issues. But her friends argue that her lines have been carefully drawn.
“He handled it skillfully, within the confines of his constitutional role,” Porritt says, adding that the “black spider” letters weren’t “extreme dialogue” but carefully constructed questions.
As a prince, he could also tackle issues that politicians avoided. In 2013 he made a startling speech criticizing “confirmed sceptics” and the “international association of corporate lobbyists” who he says are responsible for making the earth a “dying sick”.
“People have different opinions about the monarchy, but I hope people will be reassured by the extent to which his judgment [on the environment] has been solid,” says Juniper. “He has sounded the alarm bells on topics that were previously considered marginal.”
Will King Charles continue to speak out on the environment from the throne? “Certainly not,” says Porritt. It was always understood, he says, that the relative freedom Charles enjoyed as Prince of Wales would end as soon as he took the crown. “There was never a shadow of a doubt that whatever he did, summoning or some would say campaigning, it was absolutely clear that as soon as he inherited his role, that was it. .”
While as a prince he could act as a “one man NGO”, as one supporter put it, as a king he will be constrained by the convention that the monarch should not interfere in the taking decision-making body of the United Kingdom, nor take an open political position. . In recent years, he has tended to tone down his public rhetoric: the vicious attack on corporate vested interests in 2013 has not been repeated, although he has continued with some of his more low-key interventions, for example playing a role in convening countries and companies ahead of the Paris climate summit in 2015.
His work on the Commonwealth will also be essential. Pakistan, the Commonwealth’s second most populous country, is experiencing extreme flooding, with a third of the country under water. Many others among the 56 countries are equally vulnerable to rising temperatures, and the Commonwealth is seen as an important forum for finding solutions to the climate crisis.
Charles is said to be acutely aware of the intricacies of his position, meaning his public persona as king is likely to be carefully curated. Private chats, however, are another matter.
Traditionally, the monarch meets with the Prime Minister once a week for a strictly confidential conversation. This will be where Charles will voice his concerns about the environment in the UK and around the world, and what solutions there may be to the growing climate and biodiversity crises.
“Anyone who is prime minister should probably expect a fairly heated series of conversations about any shortfall, privately,” Porritt says. “Not immediately, of course, but in due course. Maybe a year or two later. They better get ready.