The seeds of the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy project were sown by Labour MP Frank Field a decade ago, but it seemed that he’d be thwarted by political apathy at the very highest level.
“I wrote to Tony Blair, then to Gordon Brown, and when the coalition was in power I wrote to the Foreign Office,” says Field. “I begged them not to put money into the World Bank but instead to use some of it to create the equivalent of international parks, in the same way that Attlee did in this country with our national parks. But there was total indifference. I was always trying to approach them, to involve them, and you would have thought that one of them would have seen the benefit, but it just seemed to cause puzzlement.”
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Fast forward a few years and Field was having an unrelated meeting at Buckingham Palace and raised his thoughts about the ambitious project there.
“The Queen jumped at the idea,” he says. “I think she saw it as a way of bringing new life to the Commonwealth. It’s the first environmental project she has ever been involved with and even at the age of 91 she is very actively involved.”
The project, supported so far by more than 40 of the 53 Commonwealth countries, aims to create a global network of protected woodland — from a tiny six-acre site in Antigua and Barbuda to the 6.4 million hectares of the Great Bear Rainforest in Canada.
Field, the 75-year-old Labour MP for Birkenhead, believes the Queen’s involvement has put her politicians to shame.
“This is somebody of 91 saying, ‘I can see the point. This is a new way for the Commonwealth to do its politics,’ when people half her age, her prime ministers, couldn’t see it. But then maybe she cares about the Commonwealth and they didn’t — or they didn’t care enough.”
The Queen’s Green Planet airs on Monday 16th April at 9pm on ITV