Over the past few years, we’ve all become a lot more carbon-conscious. This mounting awareness of our impact on the planet is leading people to wonder what we can do to reduce our carbon footprints – and celebrities, politicians, and even Royal Family members are finding themselves facing particular scrutiny.
But are all these peoples’ carbon footprints really as bad as they seem? To put this to the test, we’ve worked out the annual carbon footprint of the Royal Family, how they’re creating their emissions, and what they’re doing to cut back on carbon. Read on, to get the royal low-down.
Since the Royals are partially funded by the taxpayer, The Prince of Wales is obligated to publish annual reports covering business costs, carbon emissions, home energy consumption, and travel schedules. These reports have been our primary sources of information for this article.
To work out the carbon footprints of the Queen, Prince Charles, Prince William, and Prince Harry we’ve focused mainly on their travel impact. This involved comprehensively researching the different aircrafts that the Royals use, and how much CO2 these planes release.
Once we found these figures, we were then able to calculate the CO2 emissions from the Royals’ 2019 business trips.
Summary: What is the Royal Family’s combined carbon footprint?
The Royal Family’s combined carbon footprint tallies up to a massive 3,810 tonnes a year. To put this into perspective, the average Brit has an annual carbon footprint of just 10 tonnes.
Despite their efforts to be eco-friendly, the Royal Family has an enormous responsibility to travel across the globe to attend events. Journeying to conferences, helping organisations, and attending meetings is part of their everyday life – but at what cost?
Breakdown of carbon emissions
As well as travel emissions, the family’s farm and multiple homes contribute to the main bulk of their carbon footprint.
|Activity||CO2e emissions in 2019||CO2e emissions in 2018|
|Office and domestic energy use||115 tonnes||147 tonnes|
|UK official and other travel||927 tonnes||870 tonnes|
|Household emissions||1,042 tonnes||1,017 tonnes|
|Duchy farm||1,726 tonnes||1,832 tonnes|
|Total||3,810 tonnes||3,866 tonnes|
There’s no denying that agriculture is a huge factor in climate change, but Prince Charles’ efforts to convert Duchy Home Farm into a sustainable, organic farm have improved its emissions over time – but more on that later.
Who has the biggest carbon footprint?
Out of everyone in the immediate royal family, Prince Charles has the biggest carbon footprint.
Since electricity usage, food consumption, and lifestyle are pretty consistent throughout the family, we have focused primarily on each individual’s travel schedule to work this out. Check out how each Royal ranks below:
|Royals||How many trips in 2019||Mode of transport||Tonnes of CO2 released|
|Prince Charles and Camilla||22||17 private jet|
3 scheduled flights
2 on RAF / helicopter
|Prince Harry and Megan||5||2 scheduled flights|
2 private jet
|Prince William and Kate||4||1 RAF|
2 private jet
|The Queen||6||4 private jet|
Data from Royal.uk*
* The data in this report focuses on business trips that exceed £15,000. Personal flights are not published online, for the security of the family.
So, despite his efforts to promote conservation around the globe, Prince Charles’ travel is dragging down his sustainability score. The two main factors increasing the royal heir’s carbon footprint are long haul flights and use of private jets.
Private jets are said to emit as much as 20 times more carbon dioxide per passenger mile than a commercial airliner. Below, we’ve outlined how much CO2 the Royal Family’s modes of transport emit, compared to the average commercial airline.
Data from aviation / transport company websites
In 2019, Prince Charles jetted around 17 times by private plane, and twice in the RAF Voyager. When you compare the CO2 emissions of a private jet and a commercial airliner, choosing which one to go for is a no-brainer. However, the family often requires chartering on these private jets for their own protection.
Who has the smallest carbon footprint?
The Queen is crowned as the Royal with the smallest carbon footprint. Her annual travel emissions in 2019 totted up to 7.7 tonnes – less than a return flight from London to Perth!
Over recent years, the Queen has taken a step back from her Royal duties to let Charles take over. So, since she’s not having to tour the world for business anymore, her travel has mostly stayed within the UK’s borders.
Although the Queen is strictly forbidden from travelling on public transport, she frequently uses her train, rather than private planes or helicopters. That’s right – the family has its own private train. The decadent interior of The Royal British Train epitomises all things regal, but what makes this more impressive is that it’s a diesel-electric hybrid!
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King George V and Queen Mary, accompanied by HRH Princess Mary, were the first members of the Royal Family to visit The National Institute of Agricultural Botany in 1921. In this first image from today’s #RoyalVisitCambridge The Queen plants a Hornbeam Tree to celebrate 100 years of the Institute and Queen Mary, The Queen’s grandmother planted a Mulberry Tree in 1921. In the second image The Queen was today presented with a bowl made from part of Queen Mary’s tree. In the fourth image The Queen planted a mountain ash tree in 1969, to celebrate the NIAB’s 50th anniversary. In the fifth image, also from 1969, The Queen cuts a cake marking the anniversary of the founding of the Institute. #RoyalVisitCambridge
How eco-friendly are the royal homes?
Although the Royals need to make some drastic improvements to their travel habits, the eco-friendliness of their homes has improved massively over the years.
Quite admirably, renewable energy now supplies 100% of the electricity used by the Household (the people working to support the Royal Family), and 90% of office and domestic energy. According to the family’s annual Sustainability Report, 48% of this energy is generated on-site by solar panels, biomass boilers, and heat pumps.
The chart below shows just how little fossil fuels royal homes are actually using in favour of renewables:
Data from Royal.uk
According to its annual report, the Royal Family’s household energy emissions fell by 22% between 2018 and 2019 – all thanks to the implementation of renewables, and the phasing out of fossil fuels.
Duchy Home Farm, located at Prince Charles’ Highgrove House, is run by the Royals and focuses on sustainable agriculture – but does this make the monarchy more or less eco-friendly?
Overall, the farm produces 1,726 tonnes of CO2 a year, which is the average carbon footprint of 172 people. Clearly, the farm is making a monumental dent in the family’s keen green image.
Despite the farm adding to the Royal Family’s carbon footprint, Prince Charles has put a lot of work into making the business sustainable.
The farm’s cattle are not overpopulated, and afforded plenty of space to roam. Rather than corn or soy, the animals graze on grass, the majority of which is grown on-site or locally. This diet also means the farm doesn’t contribute to tropical deforestation from soy growing. Not bad!
Who engages in carbon offsetting?
Harry, William, and Charles have all stated in interviews that, whilst flying is harmful to the planet, traveling is a salient part of their role in the Commonwealth.
However, in an attempt to redeem themselves, the family insists that each trip is offset by putting money into the many conservation schemes that they fund.
But is carbon offsetting actually effective?
Carbon offsetting has caused quite a controversy. On the one hand, there are several companies that do an excellent job at offsetting carbon, including Climate Care, Atmosfair, and My Climate. The money that’s donated to these companies goes towards funding conservation projects, saving habitats, and consequently, reducing carbon emissions.
On the other hand, there is no agreed way of measuring carbon offsetting. You can be sure that your donations will go towards improving your carbon footprint, but it can’t be guaranteed that you’ll wipe the slate clean.
“The idea that you can fly ‘carbon neutral’ is very misleading. A plane that flies today emits carbon today. It’s very hard to know how fast an offset can remove that amount of carbon from the atmosphere.” – Roger Tyers, a research fellow at the University of Southampton.
What are they doing to improve?
It’s fair to say that most of the Royal Family need to walk the walk when it comes to their carbon footprint. However, the family is also contributing massively to various ecological and conservation projects. Some of the most recent organisations that the Royal Family are funding, organising, or supporting are phenomenal – check them out below:
Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy (QCC)
The main goal of the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy is to protect natural habitats across the globe by creating conservation initiatives for all Commonwealth countries.
Case study examples:
- The Great Bear Rainforest: The QCC has ensured that 85% of this Canadian forest is now protected, with the other 15% available for logging to support local jobs.
- The Mangochi Forest Reserve: Village Natural Resource Committees in Malawi have been funded by the QCC to encourage engagement with nature parks, education on livelihood programmes, and human/wildlife conflict mitigation.
- The Restoration of Trincomalee: This project focuses on restoring wildlife in Sri Lanka by planting native tree species, following huge deforestation. Non-timber forest trees have been put in place to support Sri Lankan communities, providing locals with an income from forest products, as well as edible fruits.
Sustainable Markets Council
This is Prince Charles’ latest, and hopefully most impactful project. The Sustainable Markets Council aims to speed up the ecological transformation of industries – hopefully leading to a huge decrease in the production of carbon emissions.
Prince Charles is planning to host roundtable meetings with system innovators, investors, and decision makers, with a view to reducing CO2 emissions from the most polluting industries. By the end of the year, these monthly meetings will attempt to find solutions for the biggest issues facing the planet.
At the beginning of the year, Prince William and Kate Middleton kick-started the decade with a new, straightforward initiative: to save the planet.
Over the next 10 years, the royal couple will unveil a number of ‘Earthshot challenges’, which will tackle the biggest ecological issues currently facing the planet. William and Kate will be awarding ‘prestigious prizes’ to five hardworking people that find solutions to these challenges, each year.
The end result? At least 50 solutions to the world’s greatest problems by 2030.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have had their fair share of media criticism on air mileage . But instead of wallowing in self-pity, they’ve built a movement of their own to overcome their (and the rest of the world’s) flight issue.
The Prince has founded the movement Travalyst to spark the inspiration of like-minded companies, organisations, and changemakers, with the goal to transform the future of travel. If all goes to plan, this movement will push more companies towards sustainable tourism, as well as supporting conservation projects, global destinations, and local communities.
So far, Harry’s got a handful of huge names on board, including Booking.com, Skyscanner, Trip.com, TripAdvisor, and Visa!
What about changes in their own lives?
Besides supporting environmental projects, the Royal Family are also making changes to their everyday lives.
When he’s not globetrotting in his private jet, Prince Charles drives a collection of eco-friendly cars. The Prince’s flashy Jaguar I-Pace is powered by electricity – making his conference trips to London much more fuel-efficient. And on the more extravagant side, his Aston Martin runs on fuel made from wine wastage and a cheese by-product. What a gouda way to be fuel-efficient!
Plus, last year the Queen announced that the family was also looking for a travel director. As Director of Royal Travel, the role will make sure the Royals can travel safely, whilst also considering the environmental impacts of their schedule.
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🇧🇼🌿 The Duke of Sussex, alongside 200 local schoolchildren, today planted trees at the Chobe Tree Reserve #RoyalVisitBotswana The Duke also planted a Baobab – a tree which is under threat across Africa. Chobe National Park comprises more than 10,000km2 of ecosystems, diverse landscapes and wildlife – as well as Africa’s largest elephant population. They all depend on the Chobe River as a critical source of water and, with many species of trees along the riverfront facing extinction, the aim is to restore the Chobe Forest Reserve. Swipe ➡️ to see images from HRH’s visit to a @sentebale project supporting young people affected by HIV in Botswana. Sentebale was set up by The Duke and Prince Seeiso of Lesotho in 2006 to support young people whose lives have been affected by HIV. The Duke took part in a “Let Youth Lead” camp activity which aims to instil confidence and peer support. In the afternoon, The Duke joined the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) on a routine river patrol on the Chobe River, learning about their fight against poaching and human/wildlife conflict in Botswana. 📷 PA
The Royal Results: What’s the verdict?
There’s no denying it – the Royal Family’s carbon footprint is much bigger than it needs to be. Taking frequent long-haul flights on private planes has become a part of everyday life for the family, and is drastically increasing their carbon emissions.
However, whilst their flight emissions need serious cutting down, the Royal Family’s efforts to prevent the escalation of climate change are impressive. That said, we think their commendable hard work to help the environment distracts from the aspects that they need to improve on.