The Green Queen: HM gives royal approval to fight global warming

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The Independent Online

The Queen, in an unprecedented initiative, will this week throw her weight behind international attempts to combat global warming.

The Queen, in an unprecedented initiative, will this week throw her weight behind international attempts to combat global warming.

This Wednesday during her state visit to Germany she will, for the first time, publicly signal her concern about the possibility of a catastrophic heating of the planet by opening a meeting in Berlin that is planning the next steps in the worldwide effort to head it off. This will bring into the open a largely unnoticed greening of the monarch, which has already produced measures to make the Royal Household more environmentally friendly - including plans for a hydroelectric plant to power Windsor Castle.

Senior Buckingham Palace sources said yesterday that they could not remember a previous occasion when the Queen had opened a conference on such a sensitive international issue on a state visit. She is augmenting a strong family tradition. Prince Philip was one of the world's earliest and most influential green campaigners, helping to found the World Wildlife Fund more than 40 years ago and then serving as its international president.

Government officials say the Queen has been struck by the mounting scientific evidence that the world is heating up and has been quietly putting her concerns into practice in Buckingham Palace over the past 10 years.

Skylights have been double-glazed following a comprehensive audit to see how the giant building could cut down on energy waste. More radically, two combined heat and power plants - which increase energy efficiency by producing electricity and hot water for heating - have been installed,paper and glass are recycled, and the Queen's most used Bentley car runs on LPG.

Most impressive of all is a scheme drawn up with Npower for a hydroelectric plant on the Thames, yards from Windsor Castle. The Environment Agency is expected to give the go-ahead shortly.

Wednesday's meeting of ministers, industrialists, scientists and officials from Britain and Germany could prove to be one of the most important ever held in the battle with climate change. Chaired by Klaus Töpfer, Germany's former environment minister who now runs the UN Environment Programme, it comes at a crucial time. This month, after years of wrangling, it became clear that the Kyoto Protocol come into effect - despite President Bush's efforts to kill it - when Russia resolved to ratify it.

But the treaty has always been seen as only a small first step. Tony Blair, who will address the conference by video, has made working out the next international measures a top priority for his presidency of both the EU and the G8 group of the world's most powerful countries next year, and wants Wednesday's meeting to come up with concrete proposals.

Last night sources close to the Palace and to ministers dismissed reports that the Queen has urged Mr Blair to intervene with the US government over its poor environmental record.