Spare us your lectures on the environment, William
The royal family is supposed to be “above politics”. The studied neutrality of the queen, maintained for 70 years, is at the heart of the durability of this feudal system. His descendants, however, can’t seem to keep their opinions to themselves.
During this weekend’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, Prince William marked the occasion by giving a talk to his grandmother’s subjects on the “pressing need to protect and restore our planet”. While he noted the “unimaginable technological developments” that have improved the lot of humanity over the past 70 years, he warned that the “impact humans are having on our world” has made the planet more “fragile “.
For some reason, the royal family has got it into their heads that the environment and climate change are not political issues. They go on as if there is already a consensus that something must be done about climate change – and, though that part is often unspoken, that ordinary people should be prepared to make huge sacrifices to “ save the planet”.
Clearly, Prince William does not intend to make many sacrifices to reduce humanity’s impact on the climate. He arrived at the Jubilee party, as members of the royal family often do, by helicopter. Indeed, thanks to all the helicopters, private jets, energy-intensive convoys and vast palaces at its disposal, the royal family produces a carbon footprint 50 times the size of that produced by the average British family.
The hypocrisy of the royal family on the climate issue is a recurring phenomenon. Who could forget that Prince Harry took a private jet to a Google-run retreat in Sicily, where he delivered a barefoot lecture on the dangers of climate change? Prince Charles is by far the most vocal of the royal family on environmental issues. He proudly displays his green credentials as he drives a cheesy-engined Aston Martin and talks to his factories. But he also has by far the highest carbon footprint of all the royals, largely due to the staggering amount of land he owns.
Nor was the Jubilee speech Prince William’s first foray into green politics. In the past, he has lamented the potential impact of space tourism on the planet, discussed climate change with David Attenborough at the World Economic Forum, and launched the Earthshot Prize for environmentally friendly innovation.
All this green advocacy may seem harmless – charitable, even. But it’s anything but that. While the likes of Prince William talk in vague phrases about “restoring our planet” and “taking better care of our world”, what that means in practice is becoming clearer by the day. The Net Zero program represents a significant reduction in our quality of life and a huge constraint on economic growth. In the UK, climate policies are already contributing to an almost unprecedented spike in energy prices, causing enormous suffering for households and industry.
And that’s just the beginning. The UK’s Climate Change Committee estimates that more than 60% of future emissions reductions will come not from technological improvements, which could be painless and flawless, but from “changing individual behavior and choices”. Needless to say, these will not be voluntary changes. Effective, cheap and proven methods of generating energy, heating our homes and getting around will be cut, banned or very heavily taxed. More expensive and less reliable ecological methods will be encouraged or made compulsory.
These measures are not the inevitable consequence of the situation in which we find ourselves. They represent a political choice to place environmental concerns above our freedoms and our standard of living. And their impact will be felt especially on the less well-off, who will be deprived of the modern conveniences that we now take for granted. It is simply untenable for an ultra-privileged member of the royal family to effectively demand harsh eco-austerity for the public while posing as above the political fray.
Prince William would do well to roll his neck.
Fraser Myers is associate editor at dope and host of enriched podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @FraserMyers.
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