Prince faces climate change dilemma over cruise

He says he is a green pioneer, and flaunts his environmental credentials. So why is Prince Charles leaving today on a cruise that will do as much damage to the planet as 260 transatlantic flights?


Evoking the atmosphere of the grandest of English country houses, complete with sumptuous staterooms, jacuzzi and an on-board gymnasium and sauna, few would dispute that the 246ft super-yacht Leander affords one of the most luxurious ways to cruise the azure seas of the Caribbean. Whether it is coursing through the water on one of the yacht's jet-skis, or simply enjoying a gin and tonic at sunset in the air-conditioned cabins, life on board is unforgettable.

Today, the Prince of Wales and his consort, the Duchess of Cornwall, will board the £50m vessel to begin a tour in which, Clarence House says, they will "reinforce Britain's ties with the important Commonwealth countries" in the region. On their way, the royal couple will be taken to a rainforest conservation project and marvel at some of the region's stunning bio-diversity before enjoying a trip to Kingston's famous Bob Marley Museum and the home of reggae.

Their 14-strong entourage, plus unspecified security detail, will spend 11 days travelling between sun-kissed islands, attended to by a crew of 24, cementing links as they go with the people of Trinidad and Tobago, St Lucia and Jamaica as well as those on the volcano-hit territory of Montserrat.

But while neither Charles nor Camilla are strangers to this dizzying level of luxury – the Duchess enjoyed a week-long break on the same yacht only last year in an attempt to escape the fallout from her sudden withdrawal from the 10th anniversary memorial service for Diana, Princess of Wales – it is not the quality of the accommodation that is raising eyebrows, it is the justification for it. Clarence House has pointed out that hiring the yacht would not only ease the strains on the public purse, having apparently negotiated a hefty discount from Leander's owner, the NCP tycoon Donald Goslin, on his usual £40,000-a-day charter cost, but it would be good for the environment too. The Prince's staff had calculated that by using the yacht, plus taking schedule flights and even sending Camilla to the airport by Gatwick Express, would also rack up a 40 per cent reduction in the amount of carbon emissions compared with the last royal trip to the region in 2000.

But there is a slight flaw in Charles's dreams of a guilt-free Caribbean odyssey: experts are warning that, far from minimising the tour's carbon footprint, his chosen method of transport could do more damage to the environment than several hundred transatlantic flights. Despite his high-profile stance on green issues and championing of organic food, the Aston Martin-driving Prince has earned his fair share of environmental brickbats over the years, not least for his well-known taste for luxury and penchant for helicopter travel.

At a recent appearance in Abu Dhabi, the Prince emphasised his commitment to reducing his own carbon footprint when he addressed an audience of world leaders on the thorny issue of future energy use via a Star Trek-style hologram. He told his audience that "climate change is now so urgent that we have less than 10 years to slow, stop and reverse greenhouse gas emissions". He added: "Common actions are needed in every country to protect the common inheritance that has been given to us by our Creator."

It may be a shock to Charles to learn the full extent of his cruise's potential impact. Leander is expected to cover 1,500 miles , at a modest 15 knots. Assuming the fuel consumption rate is no more than 50 litres a mile, the ship will use 75,000 litres of diesel on the trip. The National Energy Foundation website says the cruise will pump a total of some 200 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, enough to fly the average passenger from London to New York 260 times.

A spokeswoman for the Prince, speaking from the Caribbean yesterday, insisted the Leander was the most environmentally sound option, pointing out that Charles would also be carbon offsetting any emissions accrued during his time in the Caribbean.

Clarence House is said to be furious at claims of a "green wash" and incredulous at suggestions that the real reason the yacht has been chartered is because 60-year-old Camilla is scared of flying. One report says although the Duchess was prepared to travel on a scheduled plane to Antigua last Friday to spend a few days with her former husband, Peter Parker Bowles, before her official duties begin, she drew the line at boarding the notoriously turbulence-prone small aircraft that link the various islands. But it cannot have escaped either royal's notice that the Leander also offers the chance of four undisturbed days at sea when they can avail themselves of the facilities as the couple recuperate before continuing their duties on Jamaica.

"The carbon emissions generated by this are considerably less than the other option, which is to charter a plane around the islands," the spokeswoman said. "We took all the factors into consideration when we planned the trip. It is also much cheaper and less cost to the taxpayer."

She said the option of flying between islands was further complicated by the fact that a second twin-propeller plane would have been needed to land on tiny Montserrat. In addition, the Prince will not be using Leander's helicopter, preferring the yacht's two tenders to convey his party to shore.

James Grazebrook, spokesman for Superyacht UK, said using Leander as a hotel the touring party would dramatically reduce CO2 emissions. "Leander is an older, slower, vessel which means she is pushing through the water rather skimming across it," he said. "Displacement vessels such as these travel at low speeds and use only 20 per cent of the energy used by high speed vessels. What he has actually done is charter a Volvo estate and not a Ferrari. So because it is a Volvo estate it will use a lot less carbon."

But Tony Cottee, of the radical direct action environmental pressure group Rising Tide, said it was "typical" of the Prince of Wales to flaunt his environmental credentials while continuing to damage the planet with his profligate lifestyle. "He seems to be redefining the dictionary definition of sustainability. It is typical of people in his position. They have no basis of understanding compared to someone who lives in a council flat and is trying to cut their emissions, for example, by buying more efficient white goods, which are still more expensive than inefficient ones. When you compare this to people who are struggling to make a difference, something like this will blow anything they can do right out of the water for the rest of their lives."

Figures from the United Nations last month show that annual emissions from shipping dwarfs that of aviation and is likely to soar by a further 30 per cent by 2020, making it the largest single source of man-made CO2 after cars, housing, agriculture and industry.

David Lee, professor of atmospheric science at Manchester Metropolitan University, says ships have been pumping CO2 into the atmosphere since 1870, 70 years before aviation began to have an impact. As a result, shipping's overall effect on the climate is twice that of aeroplanes. Paradoxically, efforts to clean up the dirtiest vessels by reducing sulphur emissions could causing the disappearance of the low clouds that form over busy shipping lanes and radiate the sun's heat back out into space, so helping keep the planet cool.

Jean Leston, transport policy officer for WWF UK, said it was now vital emissions from shipping were included, along with aviation, in the Climate Change Bill making its way through Parliament. And it is not just the vast supertankers that are causing the problem. Big cruise liners produce 0.43kg of CO2 per passenger mile, compared to 0.257kg for flying.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Valerie Trierweiler’s book paints Hollande as a cold-hearted hypocrite
Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
filmsMockingjay Part 1 taking hit franchise to new levels
Bill Cosby
peopleActor has firmly defended himself against all claims
Life and Style
techSweet Peach says scent 'shows more important things are working'
Diego Costa, Ross Barkley, Arsene Wenger, Brendan Rodgers, Alan Pardew and Christian Eriksen
footballRodgers is right to be looking over his shoulder, while something must be done about diving
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Ashdown Group: IT Systems Analyst / Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

£23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

Ashdown Group: Junior Reports Developer / Application Support Engineer

£23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

Recruitment Genius: Client Support Officer

£10 - £11 per hour: Recruitment Genius: The candidate must be committed, engag...

Day In a Page

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible