King Charles III announced that an expected surge in profits from wind farm deals that could have elevated the royal investment accounts should, instead, be spent on the public. A spokesperson said Buckingham Palace had written to the British government to “share the king’s wish” that the expected windfall be redirected “for the wider public good.”
The cost of living has been increasing across the UK since early 2021. The annual rate of inflation reached 11.1% in October, 2022, a 41-year high, before easing to 10.7% in November and 10.5% in December, 2022. High inflation affects the affordability of goods and services for households, especially energy consumption in our powered world. Over the course of the year ending December, 2022, domestic gas prices increased by 129% and domestic electricity prices by 65%. Electricity prices are linked to gas prices and have followed a similar trend.
With this consumer price impact in Britain, King Charles’ decision is a major milestone for the UK’s energy security and net zero commitments. The signed Agreements for lease for 6 offshore wind projects could begin to generate green electricity by the end of the decade and have the potential to generate c.8GW of renewable electricity, enough for more than 7 million homes. The leasing arrangements have the potential to produce 1 billion pounds ($1.2 billion) per year for at least 3 years.
These agreements represent a significant moment in the UK’s response to climate change and energy security and further bolsters the country’s thriving offshore wind industry. The UK has reinforced its position as the second largest offshore wind energy generator in the world. Three of the 6 projects are located off the North Wales, Cumbria, and Lancashire coast, and 3 are located in the North Sea off the Yorkshire and Lincolnshire coast.
Neither the Royal Family nor the Government own The Crown Estate. It is managed by an independent organization – established by statute – headed by a Board (also known as The Crown Estate Commissioners), and the surplus revenue from the estate is paid each year to the Treasury for the benefit of the nation’s finances. The Crown Estate is also exploring a series of other renewable energy initiatives, including 4GW of floating offshore wind energy capacity in the Celtic Sea by 2035; collaborating with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on the Offshore Transmission Network Review; contributing to the Floating Offshore Wind Task Force alongside RenewableUK; and, continuing to grow the Marine Data Exchange.
King Charles’ Lifelong Dedication to Conservation
Royal watchers were slightly disappointed by King Charles’ first Christmas message, as the message has been a staple of Christmas Day in Britain for nearly a century. The speech serves as a kind of state-of-the-royals’ perspective on world events. This year, King Charles touched on conflicts, famines, and natural disasters but neglected to discuss the climate crisis explicitly. Many found this odd, given his lifelong commitment to environmental causes.
He delivered his first speech in 1970, which, according to the Guardian, was seen as rather “dotty” at the time. He warned of the threats from plastic waste and chemicals dumped into rivers and seas. He zeroed in on air pollution from industry, vehicles, and planes.
Since then, he has used his office to advocate for forest, soil, ocean and biodiversity conservation and has pushed businesses to invest in programs to preserve and value nature.
“[King] Charles has demonstrated a very long-lasting and extremely deep knowledge of the impact of human activities on the environment,” said Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change in London. “In many ways, he has been ahead of politicians in his appreciation and concern for the issue.”
As a sovereign, he faces more expectations than before to hold back from sharing his personal views. It’s likely that such restraint is frustrating, given his climate background knowledge and his awareness that average temperatures have risen 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit in the past 150 years, reshaping weather extremes and politics in Britain. His ancestors reigned over a country that burned coal so that buildings were smothered with a black sheen stain. Britain must now rethink its industrial legacy as it attempts to implement one of world’s most aggressive plans to reduce carbon emissions.
“Any leader who has had to confront such life-threatening challenges knows that the cost of inaction is far greater than the cost of prevention,” King Charles — then Prince Charles — said in his opening address last year to COP26. “I can only urge you, as the world’s decision makers, to find practical ways of overcoming differences so we can all get down to work, together, to rescue this precious planet and save the threatened future of our young people.”
Using his throne’s influence to encourage political and business changes on climate might be one of his biggest contributions to the environment. Around 90% of the energy used in his homes and office come from renewable sources — half of that from sources such as solar panels and heat pumps on his properties. His Aston Martin runs on bioethanol made from wine and cheese byproducts. Clarence House, where he lived in London as the Prince of Wales, has solar panels. Balmoral, the summer home of the Royal Family in Aberdeenshire in Scotland, features hydroelectric turbines and biomass boilers.
King Charles’ 27 “black spider” memos from 2004 and 2005 show the Prince of Wales making direct and persistent policy demands to the then prime minister Tony Blair and several key figures in his Labour government. His environmental concerns were broad — everything from genetic modification to global warming, farming, and social deprivation.
Part of the Sustainable Markets Initiative (SMI), which the king set up while he was the Prince of Wales, the Terra Carta was established in 2021 to guide businesses toward being more sustainable. It comprises close to 100 actions that businesses can take to put nature, people, and the planet first. Companies such as Santec, John Lewis, and the Eurasian Resources Group were among the first to sign up, and the initiative reportedly has the support of all 54 Commonwealth countries.
At age 73, King Charles’ has waited a long, long time to take the throne. With age comes climate wisdom, which should resonate with young people with whom he has spent lots of time with over the past 50 years. With youth driving climate activism these days, King Charles may become a kind of climate rock star. His passion for and authenticity about taking climate action should could provide a connection that leads to real change. As the wave of direct action coming from young adults in Britain continues to expand, the next generation now has a mentor to guide the process toward a clean energy future.
“If we find a solution to the problem, it won’t come at COP27,” he said. “It will come from the communities on the ground who are working hard to come up with democratic solutions.”
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