How can the UK make its mark at Cop27? Send King Charles

With Prime Minister Rishi Sunak confirming his non-attendance, Britain's environmentalist monarch would add 'clout' to the event

It is 'difficult to find [an environmental] voice with more authority and sway' than King Charles, says Tobias Ellwood. Getty
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Other than the non-state threats — which 9/11 came to symbolise — we’ve enjoyed three decades of relative peace.

Those days are over. Geo-security wise, our world is moving into a darker era. It’s no longer a single adversary we face as we did during the Cold War, but multiple complex and diverse threats that are taking advantage of collective complacency by the West to defend international standards and values.

Yet the penny is dropping that another threat now requires an ever-urgent collective effort to tackle. The threat of climate change is nothing new. Voices of those such as Prince Charles, as he then was, were making the case years ago.

But the freak weather patterns and record-breaking temperatures across the world underline how we are testing the limits of our planet to breaking point. The world is now starting to listen.

Britain has arguably woken up faster than others. Margaret Thatcher drew international attention to climate change way back in 1988. We have decarbonised our economy faster than any other country in the G20 since 2000, and we were the first major economy to put into law a pledge to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

We are the largest producer of offshore wind energy in the world with more wind farms planned. We aim to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030, putting the UK on course to be the fastest G7 country to decarbonise cars and vans.

These bold steps and initiatives earned us the right to host the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (or Cop26) in Glasgow only last year. Alok Sharma, the UK Cop president, built on this success by nailing the Glasgow Climate Pact, comprising a whirlwind of initiatives announced throughout the summit.

In this, King Charles played a pivotal role, calling on world leaders to adopt a “warlike footing” to deal with the threat of climate change.

No surprise then that he was invited to co-represent the UK at the next Cop27 in Sharm El Sheikh. Alok said he would welcome the king's presence there as an acknowledged world leader on the area. It’s understandable why his presence would be wanted.

The king is head of the Commonwealth, which is comprised of countries facing the brunt of environmental catastrophe, and — with the possible exception of David Attenborough — it's difficult to find a voice with more authority and sway than that of our very own Monarch.

If Britain is to utilise all its soft power to encourage others to follow our example then there is no question we must include the king.

Sadly, the stakes have got higher a year after Glasgow. Both the disruption and rising price of oil and gas due to the war in Ukraine has abruptly affected global energy supplies — with many nations resorting to coal to keep the lights on.

Alongside David Attenborough, second left, King Charles is one of the UK's most prominent environmentalists. Getty

This existential issue is crying out for leadership. With its exemplary efforts to go green and as a respected influencer on the international stage, Britain is well positioned to play a leading role.

Let’s use this opportunity to lead with one of the most globally respected voices on the enormity of the threat we face. King Charles’s attendance at Cop27 would add serious clout to the British delegation. He is Global Britain in human form.

The king delivered the opening speech at Cop21 in Paris in 2015, calling for a “vast military-style campaign” to fight climate change and urging world leaders to commit “trillions, not billions, of dollars”.

He also convened world leaders and businesses to encourage them to sign up to the landmark Paris climate agreement before the summit.

In the run-up to Cop26, he invited the US Special Envoy on Climate, John Kerry, to Clarence House in London. He presented the Terra Carta, or Earth charter, of environmental goals.

The decision by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak not to attend Cop27 is regrettable but understandable in the light of the domestic economic picture and approaching Budget statement. Perhaps, given Egypt’s proximity, he could be present for the opening session.

This dilemma, however, only offers further justification for the king to attend.

How would it look to our allies if such a universally recognised environmental leader as our own king does not go to one of the most important global summits he has ever been invited to? It’s a no-brainer.

Such an appearance by our monarch would demonstrate our continued commitment to the issue and encourage other countries to recognise the catastrophic dangers ahead if we don't show a unity of purpose.

If climate change is our biggest threat, common sense would suggest we send our best team to help solve it. That includes our king.

Published: October 28, 2022, 3:32 PM
OPINION