For the last half-century, King Charles III has been a constant presence at global conferences focusing on the environment and climate change. On Sunday, the 27th Conference of Parties, a meeting of world governments aimed at addressing rising temperatures, began in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, but the king was not present. During the brief tenure of Liz Truss as prime minister, the government reportedly asked the king not to attend COP27, and the palace announced that he would not make an in-person trip.
Still, the king was able to demonstrate his ongoing commitment to the issue on Friday by hosting a Buckingham Palace reception for about 200 politicians and activists. The guest list included new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, the US’s climate change envoy John Kerry, Alok Sharma, an MP who served as the president of COP26 in Glasgow last year, and representatives of the Sustainable Markets Initiative, a project that Charles began while he was the Prince of Wales.
In a statement, the palace explained the reception’s purpose. “His Majesty heard from guests about practical measures to combat climate change and their plans for COP27 and beyond,” it read, adding that afterward, Charles planted a lime tree in the palace courtyard as a part of the Queen’s Green Canopy project.
According to the Telegraph, Charles hasn’t ruled out sending along a message of support to COP27 or convening a video call or phone meeting during the conference. He had originally planned to attend the conference before Queen Elizabeth’s death in September, and a spokesperson for Sunak told the BBC that “had the prime minister been in post earlier the situation might have been different.”
During the Friday reception, Sunak praised Charles for his record of environmental leadership and commented on increasing global cooperation in the face of climate change. “His Majesty has been working to help find practical solutions to climate change and biodiversity loss for more than 50 years, long before Cop1, never mind Cop27,” he said. “When you look at the challenge before us, it is easy to feel daunted. But I believe the agreements we reached in Glasgow are a source of hope for the world.”
Sunak later traveled to Egypt and delivered a speech where he reflected on the words of Queen Elizabeth shared by video at last year’s gathering and said that the UK will commit to contributing 11.6 billion British pounds to a global climate fund. Originally, the new prime minister had not intended to travel to Egypt for the conference, but he changed his mind, reportedly after criticism from climate campaigners. Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson also attended the conference, saying at a New York Times event, “I am the spirit of Glasgow COP26.”
Sunak later spoke on the significance of both leaders attending the conference. “I think it says something great about the UK that not only have we got the current prime minister here, we’ve got a former prime minister here,” Sunak said. “It just demonstrates our leadership on this issue globally.”
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