A version of this story appeared in the October 7 edition of CNN’s Royal News, a weekly dispatch bringing you the inside track on Britain’s royal family. Sign up here.
We’re weeks away from the annual United Nations Climate Change Conference – better known as COP27 – but there will be a distinct lack of royal presence at this year’s event.
We now understand Britain’s new monarch will forgo the upcoming summit in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. Earlier this week, several British outlets reported that UK Prime Minister Liz Truss had advised Charles III against attending.
After doing some digging, CNN understands that the King’s attendance at COP27 had not been confirmed and, following consultations with the government, it was mutually decided that the climate conference wasn’t the right occasion for Charles’ first overseas visit as sovereign. We’ve reached out to the palace for an official statement and will let you know if we hear back.
But, in a statement emailed to CNN, a COP27 spokesperson confirmed that the King had been “invited as a very special guest” and said the COP president designate was “disappointed” by the reports of his absence. It also warned the United Kingdom against dialing back its climate goals, as the Truss government reviews some of the more ambitious aspects of the UK’s Net Zero strategy.
“The Egyptian presidency of the climate conference acknowledges the longstanding and strong commitment of His Majesty to the climate cause, and believes that his presence would have been of great added value to the visibility of climate action at this critical moment. We hope that this doesn’t indicate that the UK is backtracking from the global climate agenda after presiding over COP26,” the spokesperson said. The spokesperson noted Truss was still invited in her capacity as head of the UK government.
For its part, Downing Street referred CNN to recent comments from the prime minister’s spokesman in which he declined to reveal details of the King and prime minister’s conversations “as a matter of longstanding policy.” However, the spokesman did add that “we have a proud record when it comes to COP, we are forging ahead with our plans for NetZero – 40% of our power now comes from clean energy sources and we will continue to deliver on those promises.” Downing Street said it will confirm Truss’ attendance closer to the event.
Charles’ track record as an avid climate campaigner is well known, having started speaking on the subject in the late 60s. And at previous climate summits, he’s played an active role – appearing in his element while pressing for global action.
Last year, while still Prince of Wales, he stepped in for the Queen in Glasgow who, as head of the host nation, was unable to host a reception for visiting delegates following a hospital stay. She did end up sending a video message, but it was Charles who opened the summit in November 2021, imploring countries to work with industries to create solutions to climate change.
“We know this will take trillions, not billions, of dollars,” he told delegates. Climate change and loss of biodiversity pose a great threat and the world must go on a “war-like footing” to combat them, he added. Along with Camilla, William and Catherine, he then attended a number of engagements at the UN climate talks.
Charles also delivered the opening address back in 2015 for COP21 in Paris, where he urged world leaders to “take those long-awaited steps towards rescuing our planet.”
It may have been assumed that Prince William, now in the role of Prince of Wales, might have headed to Egypt instead, but Kensington Palace has also confirmed he won’t attend this year either.
All this has left some to wonder if Charles will have to abandon his environmental platform now he is the sovereign.
“Tradition might suggest that he should remain mum on political matters, a new sovereign is well within his royal prerogative to shape the contours of his reign,” wrote Joseph Romm, a former Acting Assistant Secretary of Energy for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy during the Clinton administration, in a recent op-ed for CNN.
“Charles can and should make climate change a key focus of his reign, both in public and private. Indeed, it’s probably the only way to keep the monarchy relevant in the coming decades where climate change becomes the world’s dominant issue as its impacts are increasingly widespread and catastrophic,” Romm added.
While the King will likely be disappointed to miss COP27, many – including former US Secretary of State and climate envoy John Kerry – believe he will maintain his mantle as a royal eco-warrior.
Kerry, who speaks regularly with Charles on climate issues, told CNN last month that the King was “deeply committed on these vital issues.”
“He has always known that at some point he would become King and he doesn’t want to not be able to push what is not a political issue. It’s not ideological, it’s science and it’s a reality and it’s happening all around the world,” Kerry told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.
“Going forward, His Majesty now is absolutely seized by the sense of urgency and the feeling that no nation is yet really doing enough,” he pressed on, adding that he truly feels the King’s “voice can help mobilize.”
Kerry also pointed to some of Charles’ projects like the Terra Carta initiative as having helped bring the private sector to the table in recent years and having already made differences in the fight to tackle climate change.
And while the new monarch works out how to fuse his passion for the natural world into his role as sovereign, his son William will continue his work through his Earthshot initiative.
The environmental prize is due to head to Boston in early December for its second iteration. In 2020, William spoke of being inspired to start the prize by his father and grandfather, Philip – an illustration of how continuity has been built into the royal roles over the years. It showed that when Charles became King, William was always going to carry on that work – but very much in his own way.
Mark your calendars, royal-watchers. King Charles III will be crowned in Westminster Abbey on May 6, 2023, eight months after he succeeded his mother.
HAVE YOUR SAY
We want to know what you think: Should the new monarch keep speaking out on climate issues or should he leave it to other royals to take on?
Drop us an email with your views to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll look at featuring a few in an upcoming send.
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