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Will Charles be a Climate King?

Will King Charles III turn his back on a lifetime of environmental campaigning? As Prince of Wales he spent decades campaigning, cajoling, and convening meetings to drive action on environmental issues. As king he is subject to different rules - the monarch is obliged to remain politically neutral.

King Charles III

King Charles' interests have ranged from tropical forests to the ocean depths, from sustainable farming practices to water security. They began long before such concerns became mainstream.

Increasingly he has focused on tackling global warming, which he regards as one of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced. He was a major presence at the COP26 global climate summit in Glasgow last year, urging world leaders to work together to save the planet during a speech at the opening ceremony.

The veteran green campaigner Tony Juniper rates the new king as "possibly the most significant environmental figure of all time". Chairman of Natural England and a long-term adviser to Charles, Mr Juniper has spoken of the "incredible depth" of his knowledge and the "absolutely enormous" impact he has had.

The question is whether as king, Charles, will be so outspoken on this or any other issue. Since he has been such a driving force for so long, can the planet afford for him to adopt a quiet, politically neutral stance - as the monarch has traditionally been required to adopt?

When asked in an interview in 2018 whether he would be a "meddling" king he replied "I am not that stupid" and referred to suggestions he would continue to lobby parliamentarians as "nonsense".

However, we know that both of his parents were passionate about the environment. No doubt, as Prince of Wales, he was able to air some of their views too. And, no doubt, when King Charles III has something to say but feels muzzled, his son in turn - the new Prince of Wales - will be able to put forward numerous environmental concerns, initiatives and arguments, just like his father did over the last few decades.

Charles' passion for environmental issues will not suddenly evaporate. "The King is a convener, connecting people and organisations in ways that open up possibilities and create solutions," says his former press secretary, Julian Payne. "I suspect it is a modus operandi that will continue as he takes on this new role," says Mr Payne.

US President Joe Biden's climate envoy, John Kerry, agrees. He has said he hopes Charles will continue to press for action on climate. Tackling climate change is, after all, an obligation on governments that is enshrined in UK law.

So, perhaps there's a way for King Charles III to stay in the fight (apart from vicariously through his son). How controversial is it for a British monarch to express general support for something that is already enshrined in law?


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