Opinion: The one political issue Charles should continue to speak out on

But past is not necessarily prologue, especially now that the speaker of such bold statements is the new ruler of the United Kingdom.

The question for the new king, his subjects, and for environmentally conscious people everywhere is, what will Charles do now?

Will he abandon an environmental platform, the one that allowed him to educate millions of people about climate change? Will he remain silent and on the sidelines of the environmental movement, at the very moment when the perverse effects of global warming are being felt more than ever?

Some readers of political tea leaves have pointed to his first speech as king as proof that Charles will choose to forego his public campaign, even on issues as pressing as the impending global climate catastrophe.

In his address to the British people last week, Charles pledged to uphold “constitutional principles”. He added that “it will no longer be possible for me to devote so much of my time and energy to charities and issues that are so close to my heart.”

It echoes what he said in a BBC documentary a few years ago when, when asked if he would continue his public campaign after becoming king, he replied that being sovereign is ‘an exercise apart’. . Once crowned king, Charles said, he could only act “within constitutional parameters”.
Indeed, the uncodified constitution of Great Britain stipulates that the sovereign must not give an opinion on political questions. And certainly his beloved late mother, Queen Elizabeth, who passed away last week, carried on that tradition throughout her reign.

But there is an even greater imperative than Charles’ adherence to Britain’s unwritten constitution. And the newly crowned king already knows what it is.

Speaking at the UN’s COP26 climate conference in November 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland, Charles said climate change is an “existential threat” that must put us all on “war footing” if we hope for it. defeat. He warned that “the time is literally up for the nations of the world to begin to ‘radically transform’ their economies from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
Recent studies show the wisdom of these words, revealing that the Earth is approaching several climate tipping points even sooner than we thought. The dismal fact that world leaders have failed to mount a sufficiently robust response to climate change was felt this summer in Britain itself, which just weeks ago recorded record high temperatures of 104°F.
But Charles has obligations that go far beyond the borders of Britain. The 56 nations that make up the Commonwealth have pledged in their charter to help each other achieve prosperity through sustainable development, “particularly in addressing the challenges of climate change adaptation and mitigation”.
The Commonwealth includes many of the world’s countries that are most vulnerable to climate change, including many low-lying island nations particularly susceptible to rising sea levels and worsening tropical storms, such as Tuvalu, Kiribati , Vanuatu, the Maldives and a dozen Caribbean countries. It includes 21 African nations that are also feeling the adverse effects of climate change. And that includes Pakistan, where warming-fueled deluges have put a third of the country under water. India, a former British colony, also experienced record flooding this year. Scientists also predict that sea level rise could displace 18 million Bangladeshis by 2050.
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Australia’s prime minister – one of 14 Commonwealth countries that still recognizes the British sovereign as head of state – also said it would be appropriate for Charles to continue as a climate advocate. “I think tackling the challenge of climate change should not be seen as a political issue,” said Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, adding that it is about our “survival as a world”.

Even from the point of view of personal political interest, any monarch hoping to curry favor with the subjects of these distant former colonies – some of whom have openly announced that they are reconsidering whether to consider becoming republics following the death of Queen Elizabeth II – could consider integrating environmental protection into her programme.

But some activists in Britain’s former colonies say the imperative for Charles to stay engaged on environmental issues is not just political, but moral.

Climate expert Basav Sen, who was born and raised in India, says Britain was “literally the only political power that started the fossil fuel-fueled industrial revolution”, and that “colonial plunder” by the British Empire “provided much of the investment capital” for this. It’s an argument some in the UK might dismiss out of hand, but it remains how many climate activists in current and former UK Overseas Territories view the issue.
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In a 2020 interview with the World Economic Forum, Charles wondered, “what’s the use of all the extra wealth in the world… if you can’t do anything with it but watch it burn in catastrophic conditions?” He asked, “Do we want to go down in history as the people who did nothing to bring the world back from the brink?” His answer to his own question: “I don’t want to.
The following year, Charles launched the Terra Carta, a mandate and roadmap for climate action that gives “fundamental rights and value to nature”. As he wrote in the foreword, it takes its name from the Magna Carta of 1215, which “inspired a belief in the fundamental rights and freedoms of people” – an implied case, if any. , that climate action can be considered a constitutional principle.

These are certainly not the words of a man who now intends to remain silent in the face of one of the most serious emergencies facing civilization.

And while tradition might suggest he should remain silent on political matters, a new ruler is well within his royal prerogative to shape the contours of his reign. At least that’s what some political observers say. One, former Charles press secretary Julian Payne, noted that “the King is a unifier” who could bring together “the best brains and the most experienced people and listen to their ideas” on climate action.
The UK Conservative Party has been supporting climate science and action since Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. By March 2022, half of Tory backbenchers had joined the Conservative Environment Network, which endorses the country’s commitment to net zero emissions by 2050.
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Where Charles might have his work cut out for him is pressing new British Prime Minister Liz Truss on climate action during his private weekly meetings with her. Truss promised that it would “double its efforts to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 in a conservative way that helps households and businesses”.
Unfortunately, she has appointed climate skeptics and deniers to leadership positions, such as transportation secretary, energy secretary, and commerce secretary. Even if he avoids playing a role in the public eye by talking about the climate, he needs to be an activist monarch to make sure the Tories stay on track with his government’s own climate benchmarks.

Charles can and must make climate change a key focus of his rule, both publicly and privately. Indeed, it is probably the only way to maintain the monarchy’s relevance in the decades to come when climate change becomes the dominant global problem as its impacts become more widespread and catastrophic.

No one is suggesting that the king will rule as a carbon copy of his mother; it would be foolish for him to even try. But he must strive to win over the public on his own terms, in his own way, and by pressing the issues and priorities he cares about, climate action being chief among them.

To do less would be to tie his hand behind his back on the one issue which seems to preoccupy him above all else and which will make him truly stand out as Britain’s new leader.

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