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A new climate King?

King Charles III has a rich history of climate activism; however, there exists concerns surrounding whether he can forego his passions to fulfil his role as King. While his climate equivocations have amassed support, he may be the most paradoxical climate activist to date - he demands government action to reduce global warming but continues to travel the world in his private jet and array of high-end cars.

As Prince of Wales, he undertook a lot of charitable work principally on climate change. For instance, he launched Terra Carta which aimed to promote private sector sustainability; built an offshore wind farm in Scotland; launched the Sustainable Markets Initiative and the list goes on. He has sent '44 black spider letters' urging Ministers to act on governmental issues. His political urgency is evident in his speeches on the environmental crisis at the Glasgow COP 26 summit and the World Economic Forum.

Source: AP Photo/Alastair Grant

Whether his deep-rooted passion for environmental change will flow into his rhetoric as King is unlikely. The UK operates under a constitutional monarchy and therefore King Charles is not afforded any specific legislative or political power. Yet, the sovereign's sway is subject to deliberate opacity, particularly between the advice afforded to the Prime Minister by the King. What is certain is that royal assent must be given to legislation created by Parliament, however, in modern times there has been no evidence that this authority has been much use. This notion is especially true when considering the centrality of UK's representational democracy.

The King, however, does operate as a symbol of national identity, unity, and pride. As such, the rhetoric employed by the King has considerable sway. Despite the King's history with environmental causes he bluntly stated a number of years ago, "clearly I won't be able to do the same things I've done as heir", adding he would not engage in political issues. In a recent speech concerning the death of The Queen he promised to "uphold the constitutional principles at the heart of the nation". Whether this rules out the possibility of whether he will continue to either directly or indirectly engage in raising matters such as climate change is not certain.

Such uncertainty is compounded by the fact that UK Prime Minister Liz Truss has regularly expressed doubt about the nation's renewable energy policies, and controversially pledged to ramp up fossil fuel investment. In fact, she appointed an energy secretary who has questioned whether climate change is caused by human activity and if the world should try to even prevent it.

So, the question remains: how neutral will King Charles III be?


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