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Rishi Sunak is likely to feel the heat over climate change when he sees the King at Balmoral

The air temperature around Balmoral Castle at the end of August will be considerably fresher than those endured in southern Europe this summer, but Rishi Sunak may still feel the heat as he and his family spend time with the King and Queen at their Highland royal retreat.

While we can never know for sure what is discussed between Prime Minister and monarch, it is hard to imagine – after a summer of extreme temperatures and the UN’s declaration that we are now in a state of “global boiling” – Charles declining the opportunity to raise concerns about the environment and the Government’s wobbling net zero agenda.

It is only a week since the Uxbridge by-election result suggested voters do not like unaffordable environmental measures, but Mr Sunak’s Government has already backtracked on two green pledges and signalled a watering down on others.

At the same time, southern Europe has been aflame and the Met Office warns that summer 2022, when temperatures reached 40°C in the UK, will be seen as a cool year by the end of the century.

With the Tories rowing back on their green pledges, and a voter-shy Labour under Keir Starmer in less than full cry in their criticism of this, it is perhaps left to the King to bend Mr Sunak’s ear over what is needed from the UK to reach net zero by 2050.

Even that target – 27 years from now – seems hopelessly distant when confronted with the scenes of devastation in southern Europe, north Africa and around the world.

If the Prime Minister thinks his retreat on the green agenda since Uxbridge is a politically astute move, the electorate appears to disagree: a new Ipsos Mori poll shows just one in four think his Government is doing a good job in dealing with climate change, while 59 per cent say he is doing a bad job. This is a worse position than Boris Johnson was in a year ago, when 29 per cent said he was doing a good job on the issue, and 55 per cent thought he was doing a bad job.

Voters take a similarly dim view of Labour: just 28 per cent think a Starmer government would do a better job, and almost half think they would do about the same. The same survey finds one in four people now believe that climate change is out of control.

The King may have been criticised in the past for his outspoken political views, but with the future of the planet at stake, he may choose to press the case regardless.

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