Queen, Prince William and Kate give royal boost to COP26 climate summit

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LONDON – Members of the British royal family usually do not engage in emphatic public statements. Tradition and elegance, yes. Flaming statements, not so much.

Yet climate change is an issue that not only sparked emotional public appeals from the royal family, but also united three generations of the monarchy ahead of the United Nations climate change conference, COP26, in Glasgow, in Scotland.

Prince Charles, Prince William and their wives plan to lend their star power to the event. Queen Elizabeth II had originally planned to attend in person, but withdrew after receiving medical advice to rest after a recent hospital stay. Instead, it will deliver a recorded video address, Buckingham Palace said on Tuesday.

The conference was touted as a last chance for world leaders to bring climate change under control. Otherwise, experts warn temperatures will continue to rise well above the 1.5 degree Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) target previously set in the Paris climate agreement, leading to further climate disasters. , from fires and floods to destruction of species.

President Joe Biden, along with senior members of his cabinet and former President Barack Obama, will be among 120 world leaders to attend the nearly two-week conference. Leaders hope this will translate into ambitious emission reduction targets as well as action to protect vulnerable areas and communities.

Royals alongside world leaders will cap weeks of events and interviews in support of the action, from Prince William’s Earthshot Prize, which aims to find technological or political solutions to the effects of climate change, to Prince Charles stating that he understands the frustration of young climate protesters.

Ahead of the Earthshot Prize ceremony in London this month, William made headlines when he appeared to criticize billionaires like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk for pursuing space tourism.

“We need some of the greatest brains and minds in the world determined to try to fix this planet, not to try to find the next place to go to live,” he said in an interview with the BBC.

Prince William said earlier this month that it would be an “absolute disaster” if his own son Prince George still talks about saving the planet 30 years from now. Pool / via Getty Images

But this royal focus on climate action does more than just raise awareness; it also helps raise the profile of the family, according to Mike Goodman, professor of geography at the University of Reading in the UK, who studies fame and climate change.

“They have a long history of thinking about the environment. But it’s also an opportunity for him to develop his own brand as they enter a new era and other royals begin to take over from the Queen, ”Goodman said, referring to William, the second in line to the throne.

William’s passion for climate action follows his father and grandfather’s commitment to improving the planet. Prince Philip, the Queen’s husband, who died in April, has long been associated with animal conservation efforts and served as chairman of the World Wildlife Fund. Charles had been promoting environmental issues long before it was in the daily news and often expressed frustration at the lack of attention his efforts received.

“The problem is to act on the ground, which I have been trying to do for 40 years,” he told the BBC in an interview broadcast last week.

“Celebrities can shine a light on the issue, but sometimes the danger is that it looks superficial and doesn’t necessarily have a long-term impact as people quickly move on to another celebrity issue.”

PROFESSOR Alison Anderson

In this interview, Charles also made common cause with young climate change activists, saying he understands their frustration at not doing enough.

“People should really notice how desperate so many young people are,” said Charles, who added that he refrained from eating meat or fish two days a week and dairy products on Mondays.

In addition to adding solar panels to his residences, the prince also converted his Aston Martin car to run on surplus English white wine and whey from cheese processing.

Despite their dedication to the matter, the royals have come under fire for their own luxurious lifestyles and their production of greenhouse gases.

Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, experienced it firsthand before stepping down from their royal roles in 2020. British tabloids in August 2019 criticized the couple, who had previously raised the need for climate action, for having took a private jet to France.

In recent weeks, the Royal Family, known to be avid hunters, have faced calls from UK news outlets for rewild parts of their large estates, which would include more tree planting and a return to a more natural way of caring for the land. Royal Estates, the body that manages their properties, said in a statement it has a long history of conservation and biodiversity and is always looking for ways to improve.

Protesters march through Buckingham Palace on October 9, calling on the royals to turn to a conservation effort known as the rewilding of their estates. SOPA / LightRocket via Getty images

Publicity for their environmental efforts is spreading to the royal website, which has a page dedicated to the practical actions of the royal household, including the use of hydropower and organic farming.

The royals are among a long list of celebrities and public figures who support climate action, and William’s Earthshot Award ceremony on October 17 included green carpet appearances by actors Emma Watson and David Oyelowo.

However, the extent to which celebrity involvement in the cause makes a difference is open to debate, according to Alison Anderson, a sociology professor at Plymouth University who studies climate change and celebrity activism.

“Celebrities can shine a light on the problem, but sometimes the danger is that it looks superficial and doesn’t necessarily have a long-term impact,” Anderson said.

It’s not just the royals who are benefiting from their leadership on climate change. Their star power is also helping to boost the UK’s profile on this global issue after leaving the European Union.

Last Tuesday evening, the Queen hosted former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates and other international political and business leaders at Windsor Castle for a Global Investment Summit to highlight the role of the United Kingdom in green investments and clean technologies.

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II attended a reception for executives of international business and investment at Windsor Castle near London on October 19. Pool / via Getty Images

This issue, however, is unlike many more traditionally apolitical causes that the Royal Family generally supports.

Younger royals, like William and his wife, Kate, are perhaps best known for their work on mental health, addiction and homelessness. Climate action, on the other hand, requires greater government buy-in for their activities to make a difference, experts say, and the activities of the royal family are only a tiny fraction of what is needed for lasting change. .

The UK Climate Change Committee estimates that low-carbon investments need to reach around $ 68 billion per year to meet the government’s own net zero targets. The Earthshot Prize, for example, supported by companies like Walmart and Unilever, gives a grant worth $ 1.4 million to five winners a year to develop and develop their ideas. That’s a relatively small amount of money compared to the large sums needed to bring about lasting change, according to Goodman.

“He’s doing his best,” Goodman said of William. “He’s using his profile, his position of power and his money to bring groups of people together to say the right things, and here they’re doing something. It’s just not enough.


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