Prince Harry (pictured arriving at an environmentally-friendly tourism event in Amsterdam today) defended his repeated use of private jets yesterday, claiming he needs them for his family’s safety
Prince Harry is facing fresh criticism for claiming ‘99 per cent’ of the flights he takes are with commercial airlines after new analysis suggested six out of ten times he travels by private jet.
The Duke of Sussex has been accused of hypocrisy for using charter flights six times this summer while urging the public to cut their carbon footprint.
He took a scheduled flight to Amsterdam this week to promote Travalyst, a scheme that promotes environmentally-friendly tourism.
‘Occasionally there needs to be an opportunity [to fly privately] based on a unique circumstance to ensure that my family are safe – it’s as simple as that. For me it’s about balance. It’s not a decision I would want to take, but if I have to do that, I will ensure that I balance out the impact that I have.’
Despite his comments, analysis of Harry and Meghan’s known flights since their wedding last year shows six of the ten return trips they took were by private jet – 60 per cent of the total.
Harry dismissed concerns over his carbon footprint by insisting that he ‘offsets’ his emissions by donating to renewable energy incentives and planting trees.
Elton John said he did this on the prince’s behalf when he provided a private plane to fly him and Meghan to his home in the south of France last month.
The prince said: ‘I’ve always offset my CO2. What is offsetting CO2? So many people out there hear about it but don’t know about it. In my mind, it’s the right thing to do.
‘We need to make it cool. But it can’t just be a ticking-the-box exercise. Somehow we have to connect people to where that little bit of extra money is actually going.
‘The moment you have that connection, you feel like you have a bigger purpose in life, you can actually see the difference you are making.’
Harry added: ‘I’ve learned that we cannot dismiss the idea of trying to do something, just because we can’t do everything. We can all do better. And while no one is perfect, we are all responsible for our own individual impact.’
Meghan cradles her son Archie as they get off a private jet at Nice Airport in France last month
Prince Harry gets on board a private jet in Nice last month following a visit to see Sir Elton John
The prince’s remarks drew criticism from broadcaster Piers Morgan, an outspoken critic of the royal couple, who said: ‘Prince Harry preaching about the environment again. He can do this, or be a constant private-jet-setting celebrity. Not both.’
One trip in July saw the sixth in line to the throne fly on a private jet to Sicily to deliver a speech at ‘Google Camp’. He also took holidays to Ibiza and Nice in August with his wife and son that produced 82 tons of CO2. That is the equivalent of the emissions from 17 cars over a whole year.
Sir Elton and other celebrities weighed in to defend the royal couple, saying private jets were their best option in terms of privacy and security.
However, the same month saw the Duke and Duchess Cambridge photographed flying with their children on a budget flight from Norfolk to Scotland. Decisions about the most effective, economical and safe way to travel are taken by a royal visits committee.
But figures from accounts published in June show the royal household’s carbon emissions due to business travel almost doubled last year.
A Buckingham Palace spokesman said Harry’s commercial flights yesterday would be offset, paid for by Travalyst partners.
An aide said Harry had merely been using a figure of speech when he cited the ‘99 per cent’ figure. Sources stressed the list of flights analysed ‘wasn’t exhaustive’ and some ‘undocumented’ private travel would have been taken commercially. ‘Today is not [about] lecturing people but trying to bring industry leaders together to make tourism more sustainable. It’s a fantastic initiative,’ they said.
Harry’s Travalyst project has brought together some of the biggest names in the industry – Booking.com, Ctrip, Skyscanner, TripAdvisor and Visa – and aims to make the future of travel more sustainable.
The number of global trips has more than doubled since 2008 and is expected to reach 1.8billion by 2030. In his speech, Harry outlined the impact of this mass tourism on places such as Maya Bay in Thailand, made famous by the film The Beach and where reefs have died.
RICHARD KAY: The advice Prince Harry REALLY needs – when you’re in a hole, stop digging
Not everyone understands climate change, the issues are complex and challenging. But people can recognise hypocrisy when they see it.
Yesterday Prince Harry was in Amsterdam making the keynote speech at a conference to launch a sustainable travel initiative. He could have got there by train – there are ten departures a day to the Dutch city from London St Pancras – but he chose to fly.
He also took the opportunity to justify his newly acquired habit of taking private jets, saying that he did so to ‘ensure my family is safe’. In what sounded like a carefully-scripted mea culpa, the prince said ‘no one is perfect’ and insisted he mostly uses commercial flights.
Pictures have emerged showing the luxury interior of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Cessna private jet, pictured
The images show how the Royals travel in style with plush seats, water bottles waiting for them on trays, television monitors and spacious bathrooms big enough to change clothes in
Last month he and the Duchess of Sussex were pilloried for apparently flying four times in 11 days on private jets, despite regularly preaching to the rest of us on the dangers of global warming and other threats to the environment.
There is an adage that if you are in a hole, stop digging. It is an approach that has served many a public figure well over the years. Harry, however, chose to ignore this time-honoured piece of advice. Instead he justified his travel arrangements thus:
‘We could all do better,’ he said. ‘I came here by commercial. I spend 99 per cent of my life travelling the world by commercial. Occasionally there needs to be an opportunity based on unique circumstance to ensure that my family is safe.’
It is unknown whether Meghan Markle and Prince Harry would have enjoyed exactly the same food as this pictured, but the images show how guests on the private plane are offered fine cuisine rather than standard aeroplane food
Of course it is entirely right that Harry should put the personal safety of Meghan and son Archie above any other consideration. But among those close to the Royal Family there is a growing belief that these special circumstances often seem to be motivated by a desire, above all, for privacy.
It is worth pointing out that the Queen regularly takes the train to Sandringham, and that airlines such as British Airways and Virgin Atlantic with their special services division tailored for royals and VIPs were always good enough for Harry’s mother Princess Diana. She travelled extensively and her private life was under far more scrutiny than Harry and his wife have so far had to endure.
Instead of conceding that he just might have been wrong in joining the private jet elite, Harry loftily defended it by saying that he ‘balances out’ the impact he has on the environment and ‘will continue to do so’, adding: ‘I’ve always offset my CO2.’
The plane, which costs around £15million, has room for 12 passengers but also carries a heavy carbon footprint, with each of the Royals flights creating a footprint of more than three tonnes – seven times more carbon emissions per person than a commercial flight
With that it was back to the pulpit. ‘Sometimes the scale of the conservation crisis feels overwhelming and that individual actions can’t make a difference,’ he declared at the unveiling of Travalyst, a project aimed at improving conservation and environmental protection.
‘I’ve certainly felt that – but I’ve learned that we cannot dismiss the idea of trying to do something, just because we can’t do everything. We can all do better.’
All very well, but for royals – for whom perception is as important as any message – timing is everything. And after the criticism heaped on the royal couple over both their travel and the vast sums of public money lavished on their new home in Windsor, the attention is not just on them but those around them, their advisors.
Yesterday, just as Harry was preparing to get on his feet it emerged that in addition to their Buckingham Palace team of PRs, they have hired a leading team of Hollywood publicists, who specialise in crisis management. The firm, Sunshine Sachs, which prides itself on its aggressive dealings with the media, once represented disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and the estate of the late Michael Jackson.
The plane’s technology is also specially designed to provide a safe and smooth flight including a variable gear system that changes the flaps to provide the best flight angle and a top-of-the-range carbon break. Pictured is the cockpit
It has a record of using underhand tactics to polish the reputation of clients. Four years ago an executive admitted it employed staff to edit the Wikipedia pages of clients to weed out negative comments.
Ostensibly the company has been brought in to handle the launch of the couple’s charitable foundation in the US. But even though the Mail understands it will be taking a close interest in all of the Sussex Royals’ foundation globally, including in the UK, the appointment adds to speculation that the pair plan to focus a significant part of their professional and personal lives on America.
No wonder seasoned royal aides are anxiously wondering just what Harry and Meghan’s direction of travel is.
Since cutting ties with Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge earlier this year, Harry and Meghan have established their own household at Buckingham Palace where their communications strategy is run by another American, Sara Latham. She worked on Hillary Clinton’s ill-fated presidential election campaign and for Bill Clinton at the White House.
How Harry and Meghan’s huge seven-ton carbon footprint could cost just £170 to offset
Harry and Meghan’s trip to Nice was estimated to have had a carbon footprint of just over three tons.
The private jet generated an estimated seven times the emissions per person compared to a commercial flight, on which even a business class seat would be more carbon efficient.
This was on top of their Ibiza trip this month which was believed to have had a footprint of more than four tons.
Daren Howarth, the founder of C-Level, another carbon offsetting organisation, told the Telegraph that the figure might be closer to 12 tonnes for the Nice trip alone.
He estimated that each passenger on a private jet emits 0.6 tons of CO2 for each hour flown and therefore the four-hour return flight works out at 2.4 tons of CO2 per passenger.
He calculated, on the basis of five people flying in the jet, a total of 12 tonnes of CO2, which would cost just £168 to offset.
Sir Elton did not vouchsafe how much he contributed to Carbon Footprint.
Will Sunshine Sachs, which first worked for Meghan after she began dating Harry, report to Miss Latham? Or will it operate independently?
Courtiers are baffled, but on one thing they are agreed: the arrival of this latest addition to the Sussex team suggests that Harry and Meghan are approaching something of a crossroads in the kind of official role they want to occupy.
Will it be one of uncomplaining, dutiful working royals or private jet-flying celebrities?
‘If it was the new team’s idea for Harry to offer up an explanation for their use of private jets, it wasn’t a very good one,’ says one veteran palace aide. ‘There is a reason why royals have stuck to the mantra ‘‘never complain, never explain’’.
‘It just throws up more questions – look at the mess Prince Andrew is in. Now people want to know what precisely Harry has done to offset his carbon footprint, has he been planting trees and if so how many and where?’
Another figure, who knows the Queen well, says: ‘They may think they’re on to something by giving Harry this informal makeover of open-neck shirt and casual style but you would never catch the Queen lecturing people on how to live their lives. She has spent her entire reign being cautious about her public utterances. It would serve Harry and Meghan well if they follow suit.’
At the time of their wedding last year, the couple were among the most popular members of the Royal Family. But thanks to a series of PR setbacks – from the extravagance over their new home, the fall-out with William and Kate and their chumminess with a super-rich global jet-set – they are coming ever closer to squandering that public approval.
Later this month the couple will be on their travels again, this time to southern Africa. Baby Archie will be going too and the trip will doubtless be a photographic success.
While Meghan and Archie will remain in Cape Town, Prince Harry will pay solo visits to Angola, Malawi and Botswana. These countries connect to the prince’s conservation passions as well as to the charitable interests of his late mother, such as Aids, poverty and, of course, landmines.
Although Angola has long been empty of munitions, he wants to go to the minefield in the country where his mother was famously pictured just a few months before her death.
This will be the kind of traditional royal engagement, far removed from tax-avoiding Google’s celebrity-infested £16million knees up in Sicily last month where a barefoot Harry was a feted participant. Surely even the couple’s new super slick American PR honchos will see the virtue in it.
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