Environmental campaigner - GulfToday

Environmental campaigner

Michael Jansen

The author, a well-respected observer of Middle East affairs, has three books on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

King Charles III speaks during the COP28 UN Climate Summit in Dubai.

King Charles III speaks during the COP28 UN Climate Summit in Dubai.

It was fitting that Britain’s King Charles III should sponsor and deliver the opening address at the COP28 UN climate change conference in Dubai a week ago. He said the world was “dreadfully far off track” on the route to tackle climate change. He warned, “We are carrying out a vast, frightening experiment of changing every ecological condition, all at once, at a pace that far outstrips nature’s ability to cope… Our choice is now a starker, and darker, one: how dangerous are we actually prepared to make our world?”

He urged COP28 to be a “critical turning point” on the road to achieving existential changes in the behaviour of world leaders and citizens. Pundits had wrongly predicted that King Charles’ ardour for saving the planet would wane once he had assumed the crown. If anything, he seems to be prepared to devote as much energy as he can to this cause.

King Charles, now 75, began a career as environmental campaigner while he was crown prince. In 1968, while just 20 years of age he made his first speech on the environment. This was seven years before the term ‘global warming’ was coined by scientist Wallace Broecker. Prince Charles delivered a keynote address at the Countryside 1970 conference where he warned that oil pollution at sea “almost destroys beaches and certainly destroys tens of thousands of seabirds.”

He continued by condemning “chemical pollution discharged into rivers from factories and chemical plants, which clogs up the rivers with toxic substances and adds to the filth in the seas. There is air pollution from smoke and fumes discharged by factories and from gases pumped out by endless cars and aeroplanes.”

In 2012, twenty years after the COP conferences were launched at the Rio Earth Summit, he declared, “Like a sleepwalker, we seem unable to wake up to the fact that so many of the catastrophic consequences of carrying on with business-as-usual are bearing down on us faster than we think, already dragging many millions more people into poverty and dangerously weakening global food, water and energy security for the future.”

Prince Charles accompanied pronouncements with actions. He adopted organic gardening at his Highgrove House country estate and organic farming at his Duchy Home Farm in Gloucestershire. Farmers committed to contemporary fertilisers and sprays, initially criticised him for adopting “pioneering agriculture techniques” in 1986 to produce organic food which is sold to restaurants and supermarkets. More than 400 solar panels were installed on the roof of the dairy to provide power for the estate. Since Prince Charles’ efforts were both organically and financially successful, progressive farmers have followed his example and some have visited Duchy Home Farm for advice.

His summed up his philosophy by saying, “In farming, as in gardening, I happen to believe that if you treat the land with love and respect...then it will repay you in kind.”

Prince Charles did not limit his ecological activities to gardening and farming. In 2020, he founded his Sustainable Markets Initiative designed to aid governments, banks, and private sector business to make the transition to sustainable activities. He said that this will be a “military style campaign to marshal the strength of the global private sector because it will take trillions, not billions of dollars to transform our current ..economy to one that is genuinely renewable and sustainable.”

The Terra Carta, the road map for this campaign launched in 2021, “aims to reunite people and planet, by giving fundamental rights and value to Nature, ensuring a lasting impact and tangible legacy for this generation.”Task forces have been established to aid various sectors transition to sustainable policies.

Although unfairly portrayed as a “dreamer” and “tree hugger,” Prince Charles persisted and since he succeeded to the throne, he has not given up his earth saving vocation. He was not the first of the British royals to adopt the planet as a cause. His father, Prince Philip, the Due of Edinburgh was a founder of the World Wildlife Fund-UK (WWF) and was its president from its inauguration in 1961 until 1981 and he became president WWF-International from 1981-1996.

Rejecting to be a figurehead only, once he headed the WWF-international, Prince Philip proposed streamlining its administration by reducing the number of members in governing bodies and convening annual conferences to coordinate policies and activities of national WWF organisations. He travelled around the planet to promote WWF projects and secure the backing of heads of state. During a visit to Mumbai, he told WWF supporters, “Conservation is the only [global] issue that is truly international, inter-denominational, inter-ideological and inter-racial.”

WWF has a presence in 100 countries, five million supporters globally and a budget of $165 million dollars to fund conservation projects.

In an April 2022 interview with Newsweek magazine, Prince Charles said his sons were taking up the three generational challenge. “As a father, I am proud that my sons have recognised this threat. Most recently, my elder son, William, launched the prestigious Earthshot Prize to incentivise change and help repair our planet over the next ten years by identifying and investing in the technologies that can make a difference. And my younger son, Harry, has passionately highlighted the impact of climate change, especially in relation to Africa, and committed his charity to being net zero.”

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