So King Charles will not go to Cop27, by order of Liz Truss; An ominous start for a king who claims to remain influential and to be known as the first “green” king.
But he should be brave: Gears may not be long for a number 10, and Charles may look at recent events and conclude that no one is listening to her anyway. If so, there are plenty of opportunities now for him to transform the old house of Windsor into an institution fit for an era of climate collapse, poverty and deep inequality.
Ascension to the throne means no more sermons about emissions or casual remarks about the destruction of nature. But his new position makes it easy for him to pressure prime ministers, even Truss as she works, into secret weekly meetings and lead public opinion by personal example — something even a government hostile to his environmental convictions may not be able to. to control.
Henceforth, what the king says is less important than what he is seen doing. He now runs a multi-billion pound private company and has one of the greatest personal fortunes in the world. How our billionaire king spends his money and what he does with his vast holdings and land holdings may fundamentally change the way Britain sees itself – and how the world views us.
Royal finances are opaque, often anonymous and often blurred between public and personal wealth. The royal cash cow is now the Duchy of Lancaster, which is 18,000 hectares (44,000 acres) of rich farmland and moorland, plots of central London, and net assets of £652 million. From this he would get about £24 million a year.
In addition, he inherits – and will not pay any tax – his mother’s huge private financial investments, several privately owned mansions, castles and mansions, as well as the Royal Art Collection and countless private jewels. With his own mansions, farms and homes, and the former Queen Mother’s £50m estate, he now has a private fortune of around £500m, which earns him perhaps £25m a year.
On top of that, he earned a quarter of the profits made by Crown Estates, the king’s real estate company that owns nearly 8,000 square kilometers of farmland and is estimated by Forbes at more than $17 billion (£16.3 billion). No wonder Charles supports renewable energy. Aside from vast acres of wilderness land suitable for onshore winds, the estate owns most of Britain’s beaches for up to 12 miles – ideal for selling leases to offshore winds, tides and wave power.
It might not be a good idea to do Patagonia and try to give up everything to combat climate collapse. But he could start his green reforms of the monarchy by publicly stripping the corporation of all fossil fuel interests. Again, we don’t know what the value of these investments is, but they are likely to be in the hundreds of millions of pounds. Far from reducing his wealth, the Treasury may see divestment as a smart move if Britain wants to reach net zero emissions.
So what can the Green King actually do without angering the government? It can start by giving most castles, mansions and manors such as Balmoral and Sandringham to the state or national trust.
He could then cut his estimated heating bills as £90,000 a month off any remaining bill – Windsor or Sandringham, for example – by investing heavily in heat pumps, solar and insulation and then shifting his bills to renewable energy providers like Ecotricity or Good Energy.
The next step for the Green King will be to radically change the way the property moves. Here Charles can ditch the old pulleys and Bentleys, go all-electric and use bikes and rail like other modern property. Soon he will be able to buy an electric plane for short trips, but for now he can make up for all flights.
This leaves the king with a lot of valuable land that is barely used. If he is brave and fair, he can offer a private 16 hectares (39 acres) From Buckingham Palace to London as a new public park, part of it may be reserved for rebuilding or appropriation. In the same spirit, he could give loafers open access to all royal lands and pressure the Duchy of Lancaster to transition to membership and achieve net zero within 10 years.
Selling silver to the family is traditionally reserved for governments, but Charles can happily throw away the many thousands of diamonds, sapphires and other jewelry that were personally delivered to royalty over a 200-year period without anyone caring about them. Billions of pounds raised from such a sale could be used to create academies of permaculture or permaculture in Commonwealth countries from which most colonial-era jewelry was looted and many still struggling to feed themselves.
Aside from getting rid of most of his ties, giving up the old British Empire medals and living less lavishly, he could start hosting vegetarian banquets and end hunting in all the royal lands.
At this point, he can do the decent thing and cancel himself.
Jon Vidal is a former environmental editor at the Guardian
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