Opinion: The only political issue Charles should keep talking about

Editor’s note: Joseph Rohm, Acting Assistant Secretary of Energy for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy during the Clinton Administration, has written eight books on climate and clean technology, most recently “Climate change: what everyone needs to know.He holds a Ph.D. in Physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The opinions expressed in this comment are his own. Read More opinion on CNN.


For more than five decades as Prince of Wales, Charles, heir to the British throne, has spoken about the dangers of climate change and the need for concerted global action to protect the environment.

In one of his first pictures sermons about the environment In 1970, he warned presciently about the growing problem of air pollution “pumped up by endless cars and planes”. He once again showed that he was ahead of the curve when he was He started advocating for climate action in 1990.

Joseph Rome

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

The question for the new king, his subjects, and people concerned about the environment around the world is, what will Charles do now?

Will he abandon an environmental platform, which has allowed him to bring greater awareness about climate change to millions of people? Will he remain silent and on the fringes of the environmental movement, at the very moment you feel the harmful effects of global warming more than ever?

Some readers of Political Tea Papers have referred to his book First speech as a king As evidence that Charles would choose to abandon his public campaign, even in urgent matters such as the impending global climate catastrophe.

In his address last week to the British people, Charles pledged to uphold “constitutional principles”. “It will no longer be possible for me to give so much of my time and energies to charities and causes that I care deeply about,” he added.

He echoes what he said in A BBC Documentary A few years ago when asked if he would continue his public campaign after becoming king, he replied that being sovereign is a “separate practice”. Charles has said that once he is crowned king, he can only act “within constitutional standards”.

In fact, Britain unmodified constitution Do not say the sovereign should not offer opinions on political issues. And certainly his beloved mother, the late Queen Elizabeth, who passed away last week Uphold this 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.

At the COP26 United Nations climate conference in November 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland, Charles declared climate change an “existential threat” that should put us all on “war-like ground” if we hope to defeat it. to caution That “the world has literally run out of time to begin a ‘radical shift’ of their economies away from fossil fuels to renewables.

Recent studies show the wisdom of these words, revealing that the Earth approaches several times Climate tipping points Even sooner than we thought. The unfortunate fact that world leaders failed to make a strong enough response to climate change was being felt this summer in Britain itself, which just a few weeks ago saw record temperatures of 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

But Charles has obligations that go far beyond Britain. The 56 countries comprising the Commonwealth Committed to their covenant To help each other thrive through sustainable development, “particularly by addressing the challenges of adaptation and mitigation of climate change.”

The Commonwealth includes many of the world’s nations most vulnerable to climate change, including several low-lying island nations uniquely vulnerable to sea level rise and exacerbation of tropical storms, such as Tuvalu, Kiribati, Vanuatu, the Maldives, and dozens of Caribbean nations. It includes 21 African countries that are also feeling the negative effects of climate change. It includes Pakistan where fueled by global warming They put a third of the country under water. India too, a former British colony, has experienced record flooding this year. Scientists also predict that sea level rise could vanish 18 million Bangladeshis by 2050.

The prime minister of Australia – one of the 14 Commonwealth countries that still recognizes British sovereignty as head of state – also said it would be appropriate for Charles to continue to advocate for the climate. “I believe that dealing with the challenge of climate change should not be seen as a political issue,” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said, adding that it was about “our survival as a scientist.”

Even from the perspective of political self-interest, any monarch hoping to win the support of his subjects in those distant former colonies – some of which have openly declared that they are reconsidering whether they plan to become republics in the wake of Queen Elizabeth II’s death – might consider making environmental advocacy part of their its agenda.

But some activists in former British colonies say the imperative for Charles’ continued involvement in environmental matters is not only political, but moral.

Climate expert Basav Sen, who was born and raised in India, Tha . confirmsBritain was “virtually the only political power that started the Industrial Revolution with fossil fuels”, and that “colonial plunder” by the British Empire “saved a lot of capital investment” for it. It’s an argument that some in the UK might categorically reject, but it remains the way many climate activists in current and former British soil view the matter.

In a 2020 interview in World Economic ForumCharles wondered, “What good is all the extra wealth in the world…if you can do nothing with it but watch it burn in disastrous conditions?” He asked, “Do we want to go down in history as people who did nothing to bring the world back from the brink?” His answer to his question: “I don’t want that.”

The following year, Charles launched Tera CartaIt is a mandate and roadmap for climate action that gives “fundamental rights and value to nature”. As he wrote in the preface, it takes its name from the Magna Carta of 1215, which “inspired belief in fundamental rights and freedoms of the people”—a state implied, if any, that climate action can be taken as a constitutional principle.

Certainly, these are not the words of a man who now intends to remain silent in the face of one of the most severe emergencies facing civilization.

And though tradition may suggest that he must remain silent on political matters, it is his royal prerogative to shape the features of his reign. At least that’s what some political observers are saying. One, Charles’ former press secretary, Note Julian Payne The “king is the facilitator” who can bring together the “best minds and most experienced people and hear their ideas” on climate action.

The UK Conservative Party has supported climate science and action since Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. By March 2022, Half of the conservative rear seats Members of Parliament have joined the Conservative Environment Network, which embraces the state’s pledge to net zero emissions by 2050.

Where Charles’s work may have been neglected for him is lobbying Britain’s new Prime Minister Liz Truss on climate action in his own weekly meetings with her. Truss promised It will “double our drive to reach net zero emissions by 2050 in a conservative way that helps families and businesses.”

Unfortunately, I appointed Climate skeptics And the Deniers To senior positions, such as the Secretary of Transportation, the Secretary of Energy and the Secretary of Commerce. Even if he avoids a role in talking about climate in the public eye, King should be active in ensuring that conservatives stay on track with her government’s climate standards.

Charles can and should make climate change a major focus of his reign, in both the public and private sectors. Indeed, this is perhaps the only way to keep the monarchy relevant in the coming decades as climate change becomes the dominant issue in the world as its effects are increasingly prevalent and catastrophic.

Nobody is suggesting that the king rule as a carbon copy of his mother; It would be stupid to even try. But he must seek 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 at the helm.

Doing little meant tying his hand behind his back on one issue he seemed to care about most and which would allow him to make a mark of true dependency as Britain’s new ruler.

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