'These days King Charles has to let others do the talking' - ITV News Royal Editor Chris Ship reports on the change in the passionate environmentalist's role
After being told he couldn’t attend this year’s United Nations (UN) climate change summit, King Charles has hosted a reception on the environment at Buckingham Palace, where the prime minister hailed the Monarch’s “far-sighted leadership”.
King Charles was officially handing over the UK Presidency of the COP summit to Egypt.
COP26 was held in Glasgow last year and COP27 will begin in Sharm El-Sheikh this weekend.
But the previous prime minister, Liz Truss, had banned the King from attending this year’s gathering, during her brief tenure at Downing Street.
The absence of the King marks a significant change in his role: from campaigning Prince of Wales to a Monarch much more in the mould of his mother.
He still feels passionately about the issues of man-made climate change and pollution, but he can no longer express those views in the same way.
In Glasgow last year, the King made several speeches and hosted world leaders like US President Joe Biden.
But he acknowledged in his national address after the death of his mother, in September, that he would not be able to give so much time to the issues on which he has campaigned for so long.
“This important work will go on in the trusted hands of others”, the King said.
And so today, it was the prime minister who addressed the 200 politicians, business leaders and environmental NGOs ahead of next week’s summit.
Rishi Sunak said: “His Majesty has been working to help find practical solutions to climate change and biodiversity loss for more than 50 years, long before COP1, let alone COP27."
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Mr Sunak is now travelling to the summit after performing a U-turn on his earlier decision not to attend, in order to focus on the economic challenges before the government’s crucial Autumn Statement.
Many of the business leaders are part of the King’s Sustainable Markets Initiative, which encourages the private sector to invest in less polluting and more planet-friendly decisions.
The King, as the Prince of Wales, has campaigned on behalf of the planet for more than 50 years.
He arrived at the Palace’s state dining room, where guests included Secretary John Kerry, the US president’s envoy for climate, and ethical fashion designer Stella McCartney.
She attended a sustainable fashion event with the then Prince Charles at COP26 in Glasgow.
Today, McCartney kissed the King on both cheeks but then said, “I think I’m supposed to do this now,” as she dropped a low curtsey.
ITV News Royal Editor Chris Ship interviews Grant Reid, outgoing CEO of Mars, on how the confectionary company is working with the King on plans to reduce its carbon emissions
King Charles told the prime minister “I’m very grateful for you being here.”
The prime minister replied: “This is incredibly important. This is all about what you have done.”
Mr Sunak’s spokesperson has said that the prime minister would have allowed the King to attend COP27 had he been in post a few weeks earlier.
But it’s now been concluded it is too late to make arrangements for Charles to attend.
Business leaders like Grant Reid, the outgoing Chief Executive of Mars, told ITV News today that the King will be at the summit “in spirit” and others will fly the flag for him.
It is a reminder that King Charles is still a successful convener and can gather the best and brightest minds in one room, but he will increasingly have to show his concerns through deeds rather than words.