The British monarch led by example, and sought coordinated action from world leaders against climate change
The 8th of September saw the end of an era, as Queen Elizabeth the second, Britain’s long-serving monarch, breathed her last at the Balmoral Castle in the UK. The Queen, who saw the appointment of 15 Prime Ministers in her era, the recent most being Liz Truss, was a remarkable personality, who stood witness to a kaleidoscope of world events, be it the Second World War or even India’s Independence.
The stunning span of the Queen’s reign included the term of Winston Churchill, the era of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawahar Lal Nehru and as recent as playing host to Narendra Modi at the Buckingham Palace. The Queen’s 96 years of life journey almost seems unreal, given scores of global events the monarch was witness to.
The Queen was passionate about her health, which is evident in her longevity, but perhaps the less-known fact is that she was also very passionate about nature and environment. For a person born in 1926 when environmental concerns were a far off worry, the Queen quickly adapted to the awareness of worsening environment and climate change. As a result the British monarchy officially discontinued the use of furs in designing the royal wardrobe and increased the use of hybrid cars in the royal motor pool of Buckingham Palace. Additionally, curbs were also placed to limit the use of private jets by the members of the royal family, hers included. These were some of the first active steps taken by the Queen to rein in the carbon footprint of the monarchy.
The Queen also kept a watchful eye over how much non-renewable energy was used across her estates, monitoring consumption through a network of 60 smart meters. Furthermore, in an initiative to cut down power usage, energy-efficient LED lighting, which promised to use 86 per cent less electricity, were installed in the royal estates at the Queen’s insistence.
It is also interesting to know that the Queen’s estate is also not heated by the National Grid of Great Britain, instead the Buckingham Palace and Windsor castle both use combined heat and power plants and boilers to convert natural gas into electricity.
Queen Elizabeth has always been known as a hands-on person. Apart from serving in the Royal Army Medical Corps during the Second World War as an Ambulance driver, the Queen is also a trained nurse and vehicle mechanics expert. For such an action oriented person, the inaction on account of mitigating climate change and reining in global temperatures was exasperating. At the United Nations climate change summit held in 2021, the Queen remarked that the time for words has now moved to the time for action, as she urged world leaders to think of future generations when negotiating a deal to limit global warming. She urged the global leaders to shun the politics of the moment and focus on the environmental needs of the hour. This she said will establish the legacy of a successful summit and would help our children.
In a further effort to take on the fight against climate change, the Queen’s office has been relentlessly involved in raising awareness on climate change and its adverse impacts worldwide.
Recently, the Queen personally wrote to 650 Anglican bishops across the world and explained the impending hazards climate change can have on the downtrodden and the disadvantaged. The Queen emphasised that the effects of climate change are threatening the livelihoods of many people and communities, especially the poorest and those who are weak and therefore less able to adapt and adjust. This passionate reaching across the social spectrum by Queen helped raise global awareness regarding the debilitating impact of climate change, .
The British monarchy generally considered as a vestige of the past was till now led by a monarch who dispelled any such feelings of an archaic institution looking for a meaningful existence in the present world of nano chips and artificial intelligence. Instead Queen Elizabeth instilled vigour and passion in her pursuits pertaining to environmental conservation and sustainability by setting examples through action.
This is evident in the recent example wherein a petition was forwarded to the Queen’s office to re-wild the barren lands in the Queen’s estates and the same was positively responded to and suitable actions initiated.
The British monarchy evokes mixed feelings for many, especially the commonwealth nations who were at one time colonies under the British flag. However, it is remarkable how the same institution has been able to ensure posterity for raising voice and initiating action against a common challenge of climate change. For this the entire credit goes to Her Royal Highness Elizabeth II whose actions for the environment spoke louder than words.
(The author is a foreign affairs commentator)