US climate envoy John Kerry claims the new King’s presence at COP27 “Would make a difference”. Ahead of the UN climate summit in Egypt and Campden Wealth's ClimateTech Investing Forum 2022 in Lausanne, Switzerland, on December 6 and 7, we ask should the lifelong environmentalist and head of one of the world’s foremost families be free to speak his mind?
For more than 50 years, King Charles III has been an ardent environmentalist, often outspoken about preservation of the natural world and the threat of climate change, and unafraid to use his platform to further the conversation.
“We have to put ourselves on what might be called a war-like footing,” he said urging world leaders to work with business to tackle climate problems at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in 2021. “We need a vast military-style campaign to marshal the strength of the global private sector, with trillions at its disposal.”
As Prince Of Wales, his personal, charitable and business interests were focussed on tackling global warming and embracing alternative energy solutions (although, admittedly, he did refuse to install wind turbines on the vast 200-square-mile Duchy of Cornwall lands, having referred to them as a “Horrendous blot on the landscape” in an interview with The Guardian). He even expressed understanding for the actions of groups like Extinction Rebellion: “People should really notice how despairing so many young people are,” he said to the BBC.
However, as the newly crowned head of state, he assumes a traditionally non-partisan position that could require him stay silent on even his most passionate interests.
“My life will of course change as I take up my new responsibilities,” he said in his first address as King following the death of Queen Elizabeth II. “It will no longer be possible for me to give so much of my time and energies to the charities and issues for which I care so deeply. But I know this important work will go on in the trusted hands of others.”
While King Charles’ new position may lack any real political clout, as a figurehead linking the older and next generations with a vision for making the world a better place, he has undeniable influence. Which is why his desire to attend the COP27 climate summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, in November raised many hopes.
He has credibility because he's been a long-term leader.
“I think it would be terrific, personally [if he attended],” said America's special envoy on climate change John Kerry to Sky News. “I know that his being there would make a difference. He has credibility because he's been a long-term leader. I think it would be very powerful.”
When King Charles spoke at the opening ceremony of the 2021 summit in Glasgow, he described the meeting of world leaders as a “Last chance saloon” to save the world from climate change. Now, in 2022 and as head of state, His Majesty is seemingly unwilling to totally let slip his environmentalist ideals. In October, a royal source said Buckingham Palace had sought government advice about his attending the conference and it was unanimously agreed it would not be right for him to visit in person. Both then-prime minister Liz Truss and new PM Rishi Sunak have strongly advised that the King not make an appearance – but with Sunak himself not going to COP27, citing “Depressing domestic challenges we have with the economy”, is there an argument that representation of a nation, even when that representative comes without constitutional power, is vitally important?
John Kerry seems to believe so… “I think it's very helpful to have leaders of countries be in Sharm el-Sheikh, representative leaders whether it is the government or monarchy,” he said to Sky News.
While, Government minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe told the House of Lords that the King has not been stopped from travelling to Egypt (“There is no ban. This is a matter for the Palace,” she said) and new environment secretary, Thérèse Coffey, similarly refuted the assertion (“The government doesn’t have a view on whether the King should go or not, it’s a matter for the King,” she told BBC Radio 4), Downing Street has since confirmed that it is not the “right occasion” for him to appear.
While the King likely won't be at COP27, the precedent has already been set for a British monarch to speak at such an occasion.
Right now, [nearly] every government in the world is off course.
The Queen herself was scheduled to make an appearance in person at a COP26 evening reception, but was forced to appear remotely instead due to ill health. Her speech, nevertheless was a powerful statement on the subject of the environment: “It is the hope of many that the legacy of this summit, written in history books yet to be printed, will describe you as the leaders who did not pass up the opportunity; and that you answered the call of those future generations,” she said. “That you left this conference as a community of nations with a determination, a desire, and a plan, to address the impact of climate change; and to recognise that the time for words has now moved to the time for action.”
The UN has repeatedly warned that the world is on course for catastrophic rises in temperature if more isn't done. “Right now, [nearly] every government in the world is off course,” said John Kerry. “Every one of the 20 largest economies of the world that represent 80% of all the emissions are off target at this moment.
“Can they get on target? If they fully implement plans they've made, if they step up in Sharm El-Sheikh and raise their ambition as the Glasgow agreement calls on all nations to do.”
With Rishi Sunak nullifying strong UK representation at COP27, many feel the King – a head of state and the leader of a multi-generational family of great wealth and influence – should be able to make a strong statement at the forum.
Alok Sharma, the UK COP27 president, believes that the king's presence there as an acknowledged world leader on the subject of environmentalism would make a huge difference to the proceedings.
“This is absolutely an issue that transcends politics," he said. “I mean, this is ultimately about ensuring that we protect our planet for future generations. I would certainly welcome the King’s attendance at COP27. I know that many people around the world see him as a leader in this area.”
Campden Wealth will host the ClimateTech Investing Forum 2022 in Lausanne, Switzerland, on December 6 and 7. For more information and to book a place, visit www.climatetechinvesting.com.
To participate, email Anton Paul via firstname.lastname@example.org.
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