In the run-up to the Glasgow summit, Prince Charles generated headlines when he urged Scott Morrison to attend Cop26. The Prince of Wales argued that the conference could be the last chance to save the planet.
At that time, Australia’s prime minister was yet to land his net zero deal with the Nationals, and was equivocating about whether or not he would fly to Glasgow.
In a televised interview, the Prince of Wales warned of a “catastrophic” impact if leaders didn’t turn up and ambitious commitments weren’t landed.
When a BBC interviewer told the prince Morrison had not officially confirmed his attendance, Australia’s future monarch said he was aware he would be accused of meddling but action was needed immediately.
“You gently try to suggest there may be other ways of doing things, in my case,” he said. Otherwise, you lot accuse me of interfering and meddling, don’t you?”
When asked why it was important a world leader like Morrison attend, he said: “Well, that’s what I’m trying to say all the time, and the point being that this is a last-chance saloon, literally.
“Because if we don’t really take the decisions that are vital now, it’s going to be almost impossible to catch up.”
Given that preamble, there was considerable interest in how things might go when the prime minister met the Prince of Wales at the summit.
When the prince was ushered into the room on Tuesday, Morrison introduced him to George Brandis – the Australian high commissioner in London. For context, Morrison noted that he had known Brandis when they served together in the cabinet; the high commissioner was the attorney general in his past parliamentary life. Charles seemed intrigued.
While small talk is generally the established protocol for these royal photo opportunities, Morrison was clearly anxious to get down to business.
He spoke like a man on the clock. The prime minister is the marketing guy, and there was a pitch to deliver. “But now we are committed to net zero by 2050,” he told the prince, with no segue apparent between Brandis’s past lawmaking and carbon neutrality.
“Australia has done that here at Cop26, doubled our climate finance commitments, and we are working very closely with our Pacific family.”
The words got faster. Morrison noted Prince Charles had always given “great attention” to the Pacific.
The prime minister’s body language suggested the Australian was hoping for approval. The prince was polite but didn’t gush. At one point, he looked at official photographers, or perhaps an adviser, with an expression best characterised as bemusement.
He murmured assent about his well-established Pacific watching, scratched his nose absently, and waved Morrison in the direction of a chair.
The show was over. The observers were ushered out.