And frankly about the “existential” threat posed by climate change when he was Prince of Wales, King Charles III on Friday appeared to signal an effective end to his decades-old public call to cut greenhouse gas emissions, which is leading to rising global temperatures.
In his first address as king, Charles pledged to uphold constitutional principles that keep the monarch, including his late mother, Queen Elizabeth II, from thinking about what might be considered political matters.
“My life will of course change when I take on my new responsibilities,” Charles said in his videotaped speech. “It will no longer be possible to give so much of my time and energy to the charities and causes I care so deeply, but I know that this important work will continue in the trusted hands of others.”
For more than 40 years, Charles has championed environmental issues, including the need to shift the global economy away from fossil fuels to avoid climate catastrophe. In November, at the start of COP 26, the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, Charles said climate change was an “existential threat to the point where we have to put ourselves on what might be called a warlike foundation” and called on the world’s governments To begin “radical transformation of our current fossil fuel-based economy into a truly renewable and sustainable economy”.
However, three months later, Russia launched its own war on Ukraine, disrupting oil and gas supplies to Europe and the UK in the process and throwing the British government’s pledge to zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
With Russia cutting off supplies of natural gas, the continent is bracing for an energy crisis that will send energy prices skyrocketing during the cold winter months and lead to governments resuming oil drilling and coal use at a time when climate scientists have warned humanity needs to. Move immediately to renewables or face dire consequences like those seen this summer in places like Pakistan, the Horn of Africa, Europe and the American West.
On Thursday, newly appointed Prime Minister Liz Truss announced measures to try to mitigate the impact of skyrocketing energy prices over the coming months, including lifting a ban on hydraulic fracturing and green lighting for oil and gas exploration in the North Sea. It also appointed Jacob Rees-Mogg, whom environmental activists call a climate science denier, to oversee the country’s energy sector.
In 2020, Charles addressed the World Economic Forum, calling for “a shift in our economic model that puts nature and the world’s transition to net zero at the heart of how we work.”
Needless to say, continued dependence on oil wasn’t exactly what Charles had in mind. But the king, being an unelected figurehead, has no control over the government’s policies.
Truss also appointed Ranil Jayawardena, who has spoken out against installing solar farms on farmland, as environment minister.
Over the years, Charles has been a champion of solar energy, winning approval in 2021 to install the panels above Clarence House in London, his former residence, and praising India’s expansion into solar power.
Charles has given countless speeches on tackling climate change, written books on the topic and made the issue central to his role as Prince of Wales. This decision also earned him considerable criticism from those who saw his activism as going beyond the limits of the monarchy.
In his speech on Friday, the new king did not mention the phrase “climate change,” and that in and of itself had a lot to say.