Ross Clark

Why I’m not falling for Prince Harry’s latest eco-venture

Why I'm not falling for Prince Harry's latest eco-venture
Prince Harry and his wife on one of their many plane trips (photo: Getty images)
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Just when you thought Prince Harry’s post-royal career couldn’t get any more absurd, he manages to make it so. His latest venture is a service which supposedly tells you how many carbon emissions will be emitted as a result of an airline passenger’s journey by various airlines and routes – helping travellers choose the most ‘sustainable’ option. He launched it this week on a Maori television channel in which he appears with a couple of ‘ratings agents’ which pretend to assess his environmental impact as a tourist in New Zealand. 

Why use Maoris to push it? Harry is presumably hoping that the viewer will draw some kind of association between a traditional Maori lifestyle, with low environmental impact, and his airline ratings service. Indeed, in an accompanying podcast, he asserts that: 'the Maori culture inherently understands sustainable practices and taking better care of our life-giving land, which are critical lessons we can all learn.'

If any corporation attempted to draw a parallel between its products and traditional Maori culture it would, quite deservedly so, be attacked for ‘greenwashing’. It is pretty obnoxious to try to imply that tourists flying halfway around the world to visit New Zealand can have a carbon footprint which remotely compares with that of indigenous people. All Harry really succeeds in doing is to draw attention to his own Yeti-like carbon footprint – while trying, once again, to preach to the rest of us about climate change.

There is nothing novel about Harry’s new airline ratings service, which I am choosing not to name. There are plenty of places you can go to find out the environmental impact of an airline journey – and all of them point to the same thing: that anyone who regularly flies long-haul would be best-advised to keep quiet and stop lecturing the rest of us on our greenhouse gas emissions. 

One website, for example, estimates the emissions of a return journey from Los Angeles to Auckland at as much as four tonnes per passenger. This, it says, is more than the annual per capita carbon emissions of 102 of the world’s countries, approximately 56.2 per cent of the world’s population. It isn’t clear when and where Harry’s Maori TV video was shot, but if it involved him making a trip to New Zealand, that single journey will have been responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than most people emit in an entire year. Of course, Harry’s travels don’t end there. In a couple of weeks he says he will travel to London for the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations. At a stroke, that could be around another 3.3 tonnes of emissions.

This all assumes, of course, that he travels by commercial airliner and not by private jet, as he and Meghan have done on many occasions previously. According to the consultancy Transport and Environment, private jet passengers are responsible for between five and 14 times as many emissions per mile as are commercial airline passengers. Harry may think he is saving the planet; others might judge he is merely opening himself to ridicule.

Written byRoss Clark

Ross Clark is a leader writer and columnist who, besides three decades with The Spectator, writes for the Daily Telegraph and several other newspapers

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