The royal family and the environment
When the Queen delivered her address to world leaders at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, urging them to work ‘side by side’ to tackle climate change, it was the culmination of many powerful words from her family on the subject. From Prince Charles spending decades asking us to put nature first, to Prince William rising to his voice on the subject, members of the royal family have increasingly positioned themselves at the center of the fight for protect our planet.
But as audiences look to their figureheads to lead by example, the lifestyles and ecological credentials of members of the Royal Family are also in the spotlight, as is the question: What difference can they make? really do?
What the Royals said about the environment
It goes without saying that there isn’t a long enough article to cover everything Prince Charles has said about it. His first major speech on the issue took place in February 1970, in which he described “the horrific effects of pollution in all its cancerous forms” and highlighted the problems of the massive use of “indestructible plastic containers”. Almost exactly 50 years later, in January 2020, he delivered a speech at the DAVOS World Economic Forum, where he said: “I have dedicated a great part of my life to restoring harmony between humanity. , nature and the environment, and the encouragement of corporate social and environmental responsibility. Frankly, it’s been a bit of a tough fight. But, now it’s time to take it to the next level. Describing 10 “practical actions” for sustainable markets, he concluded that “the only limit is our will to act”.
While Charles has for many years been the Royal Family‘s foremost voice on the need to protect the planet, in recent years Prince William has dramatically stepped up his work in this area. He gave a landmark TED talk in October 2020 where he described the next decade as “the most important period in history.” A year later he drew attention for comments made during an interview with the BBC about his Earthshot award. “We need some of the greatest brains and minds in the world determined to try to fix this planet, not to try to find the next place to go to live,” the prince said.
While the Queen is known to keep her point to herself, her powerful address to world leaders at the opening of COP26 left no doubt about her position on the urgent efforts required. “Now is the time for words to act,” she said. The remarks were intended for public consumption, but the Queen’s frustration with leaders not attending COP26 was also unwittingly expressed in a private conversation in mid-October. “It’s really irritating when they talk, but they don’t,” she said.
How the Royals are using their positions to help protect the planet
There is no doubt that the Royal Family is in a unique position to influence change through their profile and convening power. Prince William’s Earthshot Prize, which will find and fund 50 solutions to fix the planet, is a notable recent endeavor, but royals have been supporting environmental organizations for decades. From Prince Philip‘s sponsorship to the World Wildlife Fund, to the myriad charities and initiatives that Prince Charles has both supported and founded (the Prince’s Countryside Fund and the Sustainable Markets Initiative to name just two), the family often has highlighted global environmental concerns. .
The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations next year are also used as an opportunity to encourage people to participate in a tree planting initiative. The Queen’s Green Canopy asks individuals and organizations to “Plant a Jubilee Tree” between October and March of each year.
What about their own lifestyles?
It’s one thing to be a figurehead for good causes, but their leading positions also show how environmentally friendly members of the Royal Family are in their own lives. It’s easy to see why they are sometimes accused of hypocrisy when their roles often see them circling the world several times a year in private planes or using helicopters to travel between royal residences.
While it can be argued that members of the Royal Family do not control their carbon footprint when performing duties abroad on behalf of the UK government, it is natural that the public would want to see people at the highest level. practice what they preach. Buckingham Palace has been aware of this for a number of years and has dedicated a section on its website to how it ‘works hard in all operations of the Royal Palaces and Estates to reduce its impact on the environment, using everything from energy-efficient LEDs (light-emitting diode lighting) to hydroelectric power plants to keep its sites running smoothly. There are 60 smart meters that monitor energy use and the palace says it has had a ‘network of green champions’ focused on protecting the environment of the royal household since 2006/7. Buckingham Palace is currently undergoing a £ 369million renovation whereby aging boilers are replaced with a new energy hub, which the palace says “is expected to reduce carbon emissions of 300 tonnes per year ”.
Clarence House insists Prince Charles has “personally taken many steps to live more sustainably” and cites the fact that “about half of his office and home energy use comes from renewable sources such as Wood chip boilers, air-source heat pumps, solar panels and “green” electricity. Charles converted Home Farm in Gloucestershire into an organic farming system in 1985 and also, memorably, recently noted that he was running his Aston Martin on fuel made from surplus cheese and wine. Last month, however, the Sunday Times reported that the Prince’s Foundation launched a review after accepting a donation from a Saudi oil company .
While the scalability of cheese and wine to run vehicles can be questionable, royals have often been seen in hybrid or electric cars. At Prince William’s inaugural Earthshot Prize in London in October, there was a lot of talk about the sustainability of the event, with a paperless policy, plant-based sofas, no one stole just for to attend and the guests asked to re-dress the existing outfits. or promote sustainability with their choice of dress.
Can they really make a difference?
As more and more people realize the urgent need to act on climate change, the royal family appears ready to continue to position themselves at the center of these efforts. Their holistic profiles give them the unique ability to get people to sit down and listen, although the value of their participation in calls to action is difficult to measure. Some efforts have a more tangible result, however, like the £ 50 million giveaways that will be given to Earthshot Prize winners and charities that wouldn’t exist if Prince Charles hadn’t put them in place.
Despite their privileged positions, it should be noted that there are many limits to the powers of the royal family. Recent calls for them to reseed their lands in the Crown Estate, which is not managed by the monarch but run as an independent estate for the benefit of the British public treasury. Members of the Royal Family, however, can control what they do with the land surrounding private residences such as Balmoral, Sandringham and Highgrove as well as, to some extent, official residences such as Buckingham Palace, where the gardens are designed for help “life’s wildlife and plants to flourish. Whether people praise, criticize or even reject royals when they advocate for solutions to climate change, it is clear that they continue to advocate for it. As the Queen said at COP26, “We are not doing it for ourselves but for our children and our children’s children, and those who will follow in their footsteps.”
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