The Constitution prevents Charles from becoming Britain’s ‘green’ king

LONDON (AP) — On a blustery day in November last year, Britain’s future king stood before world leaders to issue a rallying cry asking them “to act diligently and decisively.” to confront a common enemy.

The bugle call – in the vast, windowless hall of a Glasgow convention center at the opening of the UN climate conference – concerned an issue dear to the heart of Prince Charles at the time.

Climate change and biodiversity loss were no different from the COVID-19 pandemic that swept the world, he said. “In fact, they pose an even greater existential threat, in that we have to put ourselves on what you might call a war footing.”

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 muster the strength of the global private sector,” he said, adding that the trillions available to corporations would go far beyond what governments could muster. and offered “the only real prospect of achieving fundamental economic goals”. transition.”

It was a fierce call to arms quite different from the gentle call made by his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, in a video message that evening.

For decades Charles was one of Britain’s most prominent environmental voices, blasting the ills of pollution. Now that he is a monarch, he must be more careful in his words and must stay out of politics and government policy in accordance with the traditions of the British constitutional monarchy.

“Charles will have very little leeway now that he is king,” said Robert Hazell, an expert in British constitutional affairs at University College London.

“All of his speeches are written or approved by the government,” Hazell said. “If he makes an off-the-cuff remark that appears to contradict government policy, the press will rush to point out the inconsistency, and the government will rein him in; he will have to be much less outspoken than he has been in the past. .”

Yet many say he is unlikely to abruptly stop discussing climate change and the environment, not least because these are issues that go beyond political ideology.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said last week that it would be “perfectly acceptable” for the monarch to advocate for climate action, even if his role is meant to be apolitical.

“It’s important that the monarchy move away from party politics,” Albanese told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. “But there are issues like climate change where 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.

Keeping quiet about the climate may be particularly tricky for Charles in light of the current Conservative government’s ambivalent stance. While the government says it remains committed to the goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions to “net zero” by mid-century, Energy Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg has declared that Britain should continue to burn the fossil fuels at its disposal.

“We have to think about extracting every cubic centimeter of gas from 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 effect of rising carbon dioxide emissions on the climate, even though experts say the warming effects of rising CO2 levels are clear.

Britain’s new Prime Minister Liz Truss is also in favor of exploiting the country’s natural gas reserves, including exploring fracking in parts of the UK to increase the country’s domestic gas supply and reduce dependence on international gas prices. Earlier this month, Truss’ government lifted a 2019 ban on the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing for shale gas in England.

As environment secretary in 2014, Truss called large-scale solar farms “a blight on the landscape” and cut subsidies for farmers and landowners to build them.

Speaking in a 2018 BBC documentary marking 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 a teenager, Charles forced them to pick up trash on holidays and obsessed over the need to turn off the lights.

These small deeds pale in comparison to the air miles the monarch has racked up in a lifetime of jets around the world – despite claiming to have converted his Aston Martin to run on surplus white wine and cheese.

Charles’ complaint that many people “just don’t pay any attention to the science” on climate change has also been denounced by those who point out that he has long been an advocate for unproven naturopathic therapies.

Some of Charles’s subjects want him to continue the fight against climate change, even as king.

Yet the new king himself has acknowledged 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.

A prince’s battles are not those of a king, he explained, but clarified that they can always be fought by the next one, Prince William.

In his first address as sovereign to the nation on September 9, Charles stressed that it would no longer be possible for me to devote so much of my time and energy to the charities and issues that are so close to my heart. .

“But I know this important work will continue in the trusted hands of others,” he added.

Like Charles, William, 40, has made climate change one of his main advocacy topics, and last year made his mark by awarding the first Earthshot Prize, an ambitious ‘legacy project’ that the prince founded to award millions of pounds in environmental grants. initiatives around the world over 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 largest fossil fuel funders.


Follow AP’s climate and environmental coverage on


The Associated Press’s climate and environmental coverage receives support from several private foundations. Learn more about AP’s climate initiative here. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Comments are closed.