The awkward moment to look out for in todays' King's Speech

There's one part of Charles III's first ever King's Speech that he might not be too happy to read.

Britain's King Charles III arrives during a visit to Fort Jesus, a UNESCO world heritage site, in Mombasa Old Town on November 3, 2023. (Photo by Ben Stansall / AFP) (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)
King Charles III may be anticipating some awkwardness in his first ever King's Speech. (Getty Images)

As Charles III prepares to deliver his first King's Speech today, there's one particular aspect of the address that might be slightly awkward for him.

The ceremony is part of the State Opening of Parliament, which sees the monarch sit on the throne in the House of Lords and read a speech, written by the government, setting out the upcoming legislative agenda.

One part of this year's speech will likely include details on the government's plan to mandate oil and gas licensing in the North Sea.

Here, Yahoo News explains why the government's latest plans for the North Sea are so controversial, and why they might clash with the King's climate credentials.

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What is the government proposing?

On Sunday, the government announced plans to mandate oil and gas licensing in the North Sea in a bid to reduce dependency on “hostile foreign regimes”.

Number 10 says the proposals will provide more job security for 200,000 workers in the £16 billion industry and help with the transition to net zero in 2050.

The legislation will require the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) to invite applications for new production license on an annual basis to “safeguard the prosperity of our country”.

The government said the move would “bolster energy security, reducing reliance on imports from hostile foreign regimes such as Russia” and “leaving us less exposed to unpredictable international forces”.

Licensing rounds will only take place if key tests are met that support the transition to net zero. The UK must be projected to import more oil and gas from other countries than it produces at home, and carbon emissions associated with production of UK gas must be lower than equivalent emissions from imported liquefied natural gas.

An oil rig under major maintenance and rework anchored in the Cromarty firth, north of Inverness.
An oil rig in the Cromarty firth, north of Inverness (Alamy)

Why is it controversial?

Data by the Climate Change Committee shows that the UK will continue to rely on oil and gas to meet its energy needs even after net zero in 2050, which is why the government insists investment is still needed.

However, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas has dismissed the latest plans as a "reckless and extreme gimmick", adding: "New oil and gas licences won't improve energy security or cut energy bills, but they will wreck our climate and lead to government handing over billions in tax breaks to mega-rich fossil fuel giants."

Greenpeace UK’s political campaigner, Ami McCarthy, said: "Sunak’s cynical attack on climate action, his ditching of green policies, and attempts to drag net zero into his culture war strategy have failed to shift the dial with voters.

“Instead of furthering the government’s frenzy for new oil and gas and trashing nature through deregulation, he should use the King’s Speech to introduce new bills on energy, planning, pollution and the Global Ocean Treaty.”

The new legislation was also promised to lower household bills, but this claim was contradicted by energy secretary Claire Coutinho, who told BBC Breakfast: “It wouldn’t necessarily bring energy bills down, that’s not what we’re saying.”

So, what about Charles?

The monarch, who took the throne in September 2022 following Elizabeth II's death and was coronated in May, has been a renowned environmentalist since as far back as the 1970s.

Many expected him to tone down his activism after becoming King in the interest of political neutrality, but he still remains outspoken on the issue.

During his and Queen Camilla's recent trip to Kenya, the King called for “action, partnership and commitment” to combat the environmental threats faced by the planet.

In a speech to staff at the United Nations Office in Nairobi, Charles said: “As I am sure the many experts in this room know only too well, left unchecked, global warming, biodiversity loss and climate change are challenges which threaten us all and can only be met by the whole of society working together in the spirit of action, partnership and commitment.”

During a state visit to France in September, the King called for a Franco-British "entente for sustainability" — another sign that he is not ready to drop a subject so close to his heart.

While the latest plans for North Sea oil and gas might be awkward for Charles, the fact the King will read them out is purely ceremonial and doesn't reflect his own views — although as such a passionate environmentalist, that still may not bring him much comfort.

NAIROBI, KENYA - NOVEMBER 1: Queen Camilla and King Charles III watch the elephants during a visit to Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Elephant Orphanage in Nairobi National Park, to learn about the trust's work in the conservation and preservation of wildlife and protected areas across Kenya, on day two of the state visit to Kenya on November 1, 2023 in Nairobi, Kenya. King Charles III and Queen Camilla are visiting Kenya for four days at the invitation of Kenyan President William Ruto, to celebrate the relationship between the two countries. The visit comes as Kenya prepares to commemorate 60 years of independence. (Photo by Pool - Victoria Jones/Getty Images)
The King showed no sign of shying away from environmental issues during his trip to Kenya (Getty Images)