|Will the once ‘green prince’ clash with his fracking-friendly government?|
|by Phoebe Weston|
I remember discovering as a child that then-Prince Charles spoke to his plants, and laughing about it with my mum. His courtiers also claimed he gives branches of trees a “friendly shake” to wish them well as he walks by. Even by today’s standards these practices still might seem pretty odd, but lots of Charles’s other “dotty” environmental views over the years have aged well.
Since his 20s, the new king has been banging on about plastic pollution and nature-based solutions. In 1970, he spoke about the “cancerous forms” of pollution – oil at sea, chemicals in rivers, air pollution from factories, cars and aeroplanes. Last year, the Washington Post said he could be the “21st century’s first eco-king”.
More recently, Charles revealed to the BBC he forgoes meat and fish for two days a week, and dairy for one day a week. His 50-year-old Aston Martin runs on surplus English white wine and cheese (no, really). Solar panels are now up on Clarence House, and he’s written a 336-page book in which he makes a “call to revolution”. He must be the first monarch to do so.
Charles has always genuinely taken the climate seriously which is much more than the rest of the royal family can profess to do – even if he does have an astronomical carbon footprint himself, living in mansions and travelling by private jet.
Until now he has shown no sign of slowing down. But now, as king, Charles is obliged to take an oath of silence. Will he continue to speak out on the environment from the throne? “Definitely not,” Jonathon Porritt, the environmentalist and Green politician, who also advised Charles as Prince of Wales, told my colleague Fiona Harvey.
But this green stuff is so ingrained in Charles, it could be hard for him to change the habit of a lifetime. With signs suggesting the UK government is moving in the wrong direction on climate change it might be difficult for him to not be active behind the scenes. He will meet with the prime minister once a week, and this is where King Charles III may have power to hold Liz Truss – or whoever else in the future – to account on the issues he cares about.
Of course, one of the Queen’s strengths was that we rarely knew what she believed in private, so the fact Charles has been so vocal about so many issues could be to his detriment. But equally, it also means the royal family could have an unlikely fanbase. Head cheerleader is my great-aunt Tina, who says she doesn’t really like the monarchy but messaged me this the other day: “King Charles will not like fracking or digging up more oil and gas in the north sea, or stopping the green levies, long live King Charles!!”.
It may seem a bit depressing that the best leadership on the environment is coming from an unelected monarch with questionable views about homeopathy and shaking hands with plants. Many of us are hoping that the green prince becomes a green king, but what a sad state of affairs that you have to rely on the monarchy to speak up for the destruction of the natural world.
Right now it feels like most of the government has a vow of silence on the environment. It would be great if those elected to be in power could speak up about these issues first. Especially when many obligations, such as cutting carbon emissions, are in fact enshrined in law – speaking about many of these issues shouldn’t be controversial.