As the world starts looking to Glasgow for the United Nations climate talks happening later this month, the British royals are saying what we’re all thinking. Namely, billionaires need to stop obsessing about space tourism, and world leaders need to get off their arse and come to the talks.
First up to the plate is Prince William, who wants everyone to stop throwing their money into space while we’ve got problems here on Earth. In an interview with the BBC that aired Thursday, the Prince dragged billionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos who are hyper-focused on getting to space — without mentioning anyone by name, of course, because royals have some dignity. (And also specialise in petty shade as only rich people can.)
“We need some of the world’s greatest brains and minds fixed on trying to repair this planet, not trying to find the next place to go and live,” he said. “I think that ultimately is what sold it for me, that really is quite crucial to be focusing on this [planet] rather than giving up and heading out into space to try and think of solutions for the future.”
The interview aired just hours after Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin sent William Shatner into space, a sentence I’d never thought I’d type, but here we are. William also flatly denied any interest in travelling to space himself, bringing up a “fundamental question” over the carbon footprint of space travel (a very valid question indeed).
In the wide-ranging interview, the prince also talked about climate anxiety in young people. He also talked up the Earthshot Prize, a project he’s spearheading that will award $US1.4 ($2) million to five winners working to better the environment and climate later this month. There are plenty of problems with the continued existence of a taxpayer-supported monarchy in Britain (not to mention how they reportedly treat outsiders of another race joining their ranks), but in terms of celebrity mouthpieces putting their money where their mouths are, Prince William seems to be doing good work here. Cheers, mate.
William wasn’t the only royal expressing frustration with the way the climate conversation is unfolding. Queen Elizabeth II also sounded off on Thursday, with a hot mic picking up her voicing her displeasure about the world leaders who won’t be showing up for COP26. If you’ve seen even just one episode of the Crown, you know that the stuff royals are allowed to say in public is edited within an inch of its life. But her Majesty was caught talking on a livestream set up to record the opening of parliament in Cardiff, Wales, which she was attending. Parts of the video are inaudible, so we can’t hear the entire conversation. But the Queen makes her annoyance pretty clear in the bits we can hear.
“Extraordinary, isn’t it,” the Queen remarks in the clip where she’s speaking to the Duchess of Cornwall and Elin Jones, a Welsh politician. “I’ve been hearing all about COP … still don’t know who is coming. No idea.”
Those of us who are following the UN climate talks get this sentiment well. A large number of world leaders of big polluting countries — including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro — have still not confirmed that they’re coming. U.S. President Joe Biden, who has said climate is one of the centerpieces of his administration, only officially confirmed his attendance this week (although he’s been talking about going for months); Chinese President Xi Jinping, on the other hand, definitely won’t be coming, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was told this week. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison also caved yesterday after weeks of waffling and said he’d come.
“We only know about people who are not coming,” the Queen griped in a subsequent clip. “It’s really irritating when they talk, but they don’t do [anything].”
You’re telling me, Comrade Your Majesty!
In the video, Jones agreed with the Queen’s comments on those who “talk, but don’t do,” agreeing that “it’s a time for doing.” She also brought up William’s interview to the Queen. “Watching your grandson [Prince William] on the television this morning saying there’s no point going to space, we need to save the Earth.’
“Yes, I read about it,” the Queen responded with a smile.
Before we go calling the Queen a total climate boss babe and quite literally “yaaaas, Queen”-ing her, though, a small serving of realism. The royals live a wildly carbon-intensive lifestyle, as most rich people do. (Apologies to Prince Charles’ wine-and-cheese-fuelled car, but it’s true.) More damningly, the Queen’s advisors reportedly invoked rules to influence legislation earlier this year so that lands owned by the Crown would be exempt from Scottish climate legislation. The Crown is the biggest landholder in the UK, so that’s no small issue.
It’s great the Queen is pissed at world leaders for not showing up for COP26 and all the empty talk. And cheerio to William for royally roasting billionaires for their space travel obsession. But the carbon pollution is also coming from inside the House of Windsor.