Let King, President declare war

Britain's King Charles III

Britain's King Charles III walks wearing St Edward's Crown during the Coronation Ceremony inside Westminster Abbey in central London on May 6, 2023. 

Photo credit: Richard Pohle | Pool | AFP

Queen Elizabeth II, the longest-reigning British monarch, was rarely known to publicly express her irritation or anger. 

However, in an unguarded moment, a live microphone caught her expressing her frustration with the inaction of world leaders on climate change.

This was done in the context of representatives of various nations attending the UN Climate Summit in Glasgow, Scotland, in late 2021.

And now, her son, the recently coronated King Charles III, has long been an advocate for climate action. He has been at the forefront of urging business leaders to invest in a sustainable future, saying “time is fast running out” to address the climate crisis.

I have never had the benefit of having a royal education, neither do I even dream of some Roman number after my name, but I do compliment my suburban Nairobi knowledge with strategy books.

Recently, I reread Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince. In the book, Machiavelli advises rulers to act with strength and urgency in times of crisis, to be willing to make tough decisions and take bold actions to protect their state.

King Charles III inherited the Sovereign’s Scepter that, coincidentally, was first used by his great ancestor namesake, King Charles I. This symbolic but powerful allegory to his great-grandfather represents “the sovereign’s temporal power and is associated with good governance”. 

At no time in the Commonwealth was good governance needed in the call for climate action as it is now. At the Glasgow COP26, the King, then the Prince of Wales, had a clear message: The world must act now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prevent catastrophic climate change. 

He emphasized the need for governments and businesses to work together to address the problem, saying that “we need to put ourselves on a war-like footing, approaching this challenge with the urgency and determination that we would in times of war”.

Just like in the political treatise, “the prince” counsels on the need to act with strength and urgency in times of crisis. Similarly, my King, as you ably called this climate action initiative a “war-like footing”, it behoves your leadership to execute what Koffi Olomide sang as noblesse oblige (a French term which translates to “nobility obligates”, meaning with great wealth comes the responsibility to give back to those who are less fortunate than oneself).

Importance of alliances

Machiavelli also emphasizes the importance of alliances in securing a ruler’s position, just as King Charles did in his Glasgow call to action for governments and businesses to work together to address climate change. The King recognises that this is not a problem that can be solved by any one country or organisation alone and that we need to unite to combat this most devastating global crisis of our time.

Machiavelli emphasizes the need to adapt to changing circumstances, and the importance of being flexible and adaptable in the face of changing circumstances. He advises rulers to be alert to shifting political landscapes and to be willing to adjust their strategies accordingly.

Here in Kenya, President William Ruto is leading a neo-African initiative on climate action. In his recent statement, President Ruto called for urgent action by developed countries to address climate change. He emphasized the need for global collaboration in combating this critical issue and urged African countries to work together towards a sustainable future. 

This message by the President echoes the sentiments expressed by King Charles in his speech at the COP26 summit.

It is apparent that both leaders recognise that this is a global issue that requires a coordinated effort from all countries and stakeholders. The Commonwealth honcho has called for businesses and governments to work together to address climate change while President Ruto has emphasized that the Global North take up their financial obligations and commitments to African countries.

President Ruto seems not to be paying lip service to climate change mitigation as alluded to by the King’s predecessor in the famous ‘unguarded live mic moment’. To his credit, the President announced—at his inauguration, no less—a reorganisation of the Kenyan government with a focus on promoting sustainable development and addressing climate change. 

This move is consistent with King Charles’s long-standing commitment to environmentalism and sustainability, and suggests that the new leadership in Kenya is in sync with the monarch’s agenda.

As King Charles visits Kenya—the country where his parents were on safari when his then-princess mother was made Queen—soon, climate change advocates will cock their ears and peel their eyes in great anticipation of the biggest climate change mitigation and adaptation strategy announcement in recent times.

Ms Hassan is business development manager, SolarNow Services (EA) Ltd. [email protected].