Making a royal effort to be greener

STEVE DOWNES The Royal Family has long stood for continuity and tradition. Now, as yesterday’s publication of its finances shows, its members are determined to add progress and environmental conscience to their portfolio. STEVE DOWNES reports on the recycling Royals’.

STEVE DOWNES

So we have a “green” Queen. In fact, unbeknown to most of us, the Queen has been quietly advocating low carbon lifestyle for more than two decades.

While Prince Charles has grabbed most of the headlines for speaking and acting on climate change, the Queen has been introducing initiatives to do her bit.

As the annual finances for the Royal Family in 2006/7 were unveiled, a senior Buckingham Palace aide spelt out what was being done.

He said there was a balancing act between getting value for money, curbing emissions and the Royal Family doing the job it was supposed to do.

He said there were plans to convert the Royal train to run on biodiesel, and added: “We will do what we can to reduce carbon emissions. If we cannot reduce, it will be offset.”

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He confirmed the widely held belief that the Queen does switch off lights if she finds them on and no-one around.

“The Queen is pleased with Charles' leadership (on carbon emissions). The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh have been working on this for 22 years.

“It's always been in the forefront of her mind - she's just not made public statements on it. She's done the action, let the action speak for her.”

Since 1985, the Royal Household has introduced a number of initiatives, from drilling water boreholes in the garden of Buckingham Palace to provide water for air-conditioning units to recycling all its Christmas trees.

The aide said they were currently working on a detailed plan to reduce carbon emissions.

Prince Charles has provided bikes for his staff to ride to work or meetings and events where appropriate, but the aide said the Queen's staff would be allowed to travel to work by their most convenient means.

However, Prince Charles's green credentials will be questioned by some when they study the detailed figures.

For the accounts reveal that the most expensive over-seas trip was a chartered flight made by Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall to the Gulf and Bosnia in February and March, which cost £345,710.

And the couple's scheduled flight from the UK to Philadelphia and New York in January so Prince Charles could collect a Global Environmental Citizen prize from former winner Al Gore, among other engagements, cost £59,045. There was also an additional cost of £3,870 for a chartered train from Philadelphia to New York.

Campaigners have accused Prince Charles of “green hypocrisy” for the round trip of nearly 7,000 miles, while the then environment secretary David Miliband suggested he should have received the award via video link. Prince Charles's own financial figures, also published this week, show he is carbon neutral and has cut his CO2 emissions by 9pc over the last year. His carbon footprint, calculated for the first time, came out at 3,425 tonnes of CO2.

The headline figure in the Royal accounts, of particular interest to those who object to paying their taxes to support the Royal Family, is that each British taxpayer stumped up the princely sum of 62p in 2006/7 - exactly the same average cost as in 2005/6.

The accounts for the year to March 31 show that the total cost of keeping the monarchy fell by 0.3pc to £37.3m.

The fall in expenditure was mainly due to a reduction in the refurbishment costs at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Scotland, offset by increased costs in dealing with a greater number of freedom of information inquiries.

Keeper of the Privy Purse Sir Alan Reid said: “Following the leadership of the Prince of Wales, the Royal Household has started working on measuring its carbon footprint and is developing further action plans for reducing it.

“Success has been achieved in reducing carbon emissions on gas and electricity by 1,000 tonnes, or 12pc during the year, through lower energy consumption and the introduction of a new combined heat and power plant at Windsor Castle.”

Sir Alan highlighted a growing issue of continuing repairs needing to be carried out at some royal palaces.

He said: “However, since the allocation of the Property Grant-in-Aid was fixed by the government in 1991, it has effectively been reduced by 69pc in real terms. Now there is a critical backlog in maintenance projects and if our historic buildings are to remain safe it is essential that the grant is increased by £1m per year.”

The senior aide said that in the future, parts of royal buildings may have to be closed to the public if they were thought to be dangerous.

Among the other interesting figures were:

t £1.1m was spent on hospitality and catering, including garden parties

t £5.6m was spent on travel, including £2.2m for 514 hours of helicopter use

t £8.8m was spent on salaries for Royal staff

t the Duke of Edinburgh received £359,000 from the Civil List in 2006/7

t other Royals received parliamentary annuities, which are repaid by the Queen from her private funds. They include £249,000 for the Duke of York, £141,000 for the Earl of Wessex, £228,000 for the Princess Royal, £175,000 to the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, £236,000 to the Duke and Duchess of Kent and £225,000 to Princess Alexandra.

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