Her Majesty’s long reign has probably produced more carbon dioxide than any of her subjects, says Fleet Street Fox. But she’s turning into a bit of a hippy in her old age
In general, any 95-year-old dripping in jewellery that costs more than the average house will, when discussing climate change, state that it is someone else’s problem.
And so it was when the Queen attended the opening of the Welsh Senedd, wearing pearl earrings the size of a mint humbug, shortly before stepping into a Kevlar-plated limousine to drive a single, solitary mile to the station where her personal train awaited her.
She was caught on a livestream discussing the upcoming COP26 climate change summit, saying: “Extraordinary isn’t it… still don’t know who’s coming, no idea… we only know about people who are not coming and it’s really irritating when they talk, but don’t do.”
She might have meant it was irritating when guests don’t reply to invitations, but most people have taken it as a broad criticism of world leaders failing to save the planet.
Seeing as this is a woman whose homes contain a large amount of the planet that was mined, carved, shot, skinned, robbed or stolen before it was squirrelled away for her and her family, you might reasonably conclude it’s a bit rich for her to criticise.
But she has done rather more than most of her Prime Ministers to de-carbonise the country.
Buckingham Palace has heat and hot water produced by a combined heat and power plant, with solar panels in the offing. Windsor Castle boasts hydroelectric power fed by the River Thames, while Balmoral produces 50 tonnes of compost every year from its organic waste. She also sends old staff computers to be recycled, and redistributed by charities in the developing world.
A quarter of the UK’s power comes from wind turbines, a vast number of which are on offshore farms she technically owns, and which are leased from the Crown Estate. She’s patron of 10 environmental charities, her husband had more than 40, and their eldest son has a 51-year-old car which has an engine converted to “run on wine and cheese”.
Aside from the fact that’s the automobile version of Boris Johnson, it’s more than anyone’s done to make 10 Downing Street any greener. In fact, the real-time website displaying the PM’s energy use is currently kaput.
On the same day she was caught making a sniffy remark about the Chinese refusal to come to the environmental party, climate activist Greta Thunberg said COP26 would involve “many pledges that – if you look into the details – are more or less meaningless but they just say them in order to have something to say, in order for media to have something to report about”.
And so there are two uncomfortable things to consider. The first is that, if the Chinese don’t turn up, there is no chance the rest of the world could limit global warming to an extra 1.5 degrees. Islands will be lost to melted ice caps, species will go extinct, and mass immigrations will take place, all because Xi Jinping is too much of a capitalist.
The second is that Her Majesty might be a secret hippy. An “unco-operative crusty”. A friend of Swampy. A hippy-dippy, namby-pamby, ooh-it’s-all-got-to-be-a-bit-green, woke old greenhouse whinger.
The evidence for:
1. Sells own chutney outside house
2. Always carrying a bunch of flowers
3. Finds money unnecessary
OH COME ON.
The woman has 8 gas-guzzling limousines, 2 private homes, another 6 she uses for work, two jets, three helicopters, a train, and had to have her diesel-powered yacht prised out of her hands. In 2016, it was calculated she had travelled more than a million miles, equivalent to going around the world 42 times, in the course of her reign. And that’s before you calculate the cost to the planet of 4 children, 8 grandchildren, and 11 great-grandchildren, not one of whom is ever going to catch the bus.
Throw in the fact she’s a widow living in single-glazed, drafty palaces, with hundreds of bedrooms, and thousands of staff, all consuming water and electricity just because she can’t find her own cornflakes in the morning, and Queen Elizabeth II has a bigger carbon footprint than a T-Rex in a coal mine.
It’s no good saying “but she goes around switching the lights off”. There’d be a lot more light to go round, if she hadn’t bothered to give us Prince Andrew.
But you can’t be a totally green Queen, whatever Meghan Markle might think. A Royal simply isn’t royal any more if they ditch the palaces, staff, and multiple forms of transport. Brenda from down the road might be able to hop on the bus to get to Sainsbury’s, but Brenda from SW1A is going to struggle with it.
The Royal travel, state visits, and constant wardrobe changes are part of a job no-one wants to say is surplus to requirements. Staff, security, consumption, and the problems of maintaining 1,000-year-old castles are something she cannot do much about.
It’s not like she’s about to live in a tunnel under Finsbury Square, or block the M25 in rush hour while daring a lorry driver to drag her onto the hard shoulder, and shouting “SOD THE AMBULANCES!”
But one of the benefits of a Queen is being able to get her to say or do things that are accidentally overheard but entirely intended, like when David Cameron asked her to intervene in the Scottish independence referendum, or a politician not a million miles from Michael Gove lied that she was pro-Leave, and next chance she got the Queen dressed up as the EU flag to put him back in his box.
That’s why it was her name on the COP26 invitations. It’s why her being irritated will be reported worldwide. It’s why, perhaps, shamefaced world leaders will suddenly respond to a summit invitation they had hitherto ignored. Queens have power, and old ladies can tickle even the least-guilty conscience with just the tiniest hint of disapproval.
Anyone who thinks they haven’t been naughty will start to wonder if in fact they have. Those who think the world has forgotten what they did, will be reminded the world should remember what they’ll do next. The most ardent republican feels the knee creak into a curtsey, when this particular woman asks how far you’ve come.
Whether her words were planned or accidental, they will do more than all the Prime Minister’s windbaggery to actually move world leaders closer to common sense. That she can do that is the reason we let her get away with everything else.
Hopefully at the summit she’ll get the chance to say “well, one SHOULD insulate Britain, shouldn’t one?” Seeing as she loathed Margaret Thatcher, married a refugee and is literally the head of a union, she’s probably more of a radical Leftie than anyone will ever realise.