Conversation with ocean leaders: Prince Albert II of Monaco

prince-albert-ii-of-monacoPrince Albert II of Monaco was Recently Awarded the Peter Benchley Award for Ocean Stewardship.

1. What lessons did you learn through the “Monaco Declaration” and how can we best transfer the concern of ocean acidification into action? How do you think Americans can become more engaged on this topic?

The “Monaco declaration” of October 6-9, 2009 based on irrefutable scientific findings and signed by 155 scientists from 26 nations, sets forth recommendations, calling for policymakers to address this immense problem.

I strongly supported this declaration, which was and always is, in full accord with my efforts and those of my Foundation to alleviate climate change.

In October 2008, I hoped that these issues would be heard by all the political leaders meeting in Copenhagen in December 2009. Today, a few months before the meeting in Paris, I hope that after five years of intense work, the political leaders will hear the voice of not only the scientists, but of the global community calling for action.

A lot of prestigious American institutions signed the Monaco declaration back in 2008, for instance Seattle, MBARI, Carnegie Institution, Stanford, Princeton University, University of Montana, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and California State University San Marcos. What they now need is a platform for communication and dialogue to make Americans more aware of this problem. The U.S. has a strong and unique power of mobilization and action and I am sure that it can play a great role in the search for solutions on ocean acidification.

2. Given your role in championing the oceans at the Rio +20 conference in 2012 – what are your expectations for progress to be made in Paris at COP-21 later this year?

In the Rio+20 Declaration, paragraph 166 clearly states, “the need to work collectively to prevent further ocean acidification, as well as enhance the resilience of marine ecosystems and of the communities whose livelihoods depend on them.”

The same text underlines “the need to support marine scientific research, monitoring and observation of ocean acidification and particularly vulnerable ecosystems, including through enhanced international cooperation in this regard.”

Such a statement made within the framework of the United Nations was undeniably an important step in the implementation of concerted and ambitious policies on a global scale.

Therefore, the Rio+20 Declaration formed part of a positive movement. Other significant progresses and a certain number of initiatives have been implemented since then.

For instance, in Monaco, the Association for Ocean Acidification (AMAO) was launched in order to:

  • Understand and anticipate the impact of ocean acidification. The Scientific Center of Monaco and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Environmental Laboratory based in Monaco organize workshops every two years to discuss the social and economic impacts of ocean acidification and establish a strategy for adaptation.
  • Coordinate international projects in conjunction with the International Center for Ocean Acidification Coordination. This Center was developed by the IAEA in the framework of its peaceful uses initiatives programs and with the financial support of the U.S. State Department.
  • Inform and raise awareness among citizens and decision makers with the Ocean Acidification international Reference User Group. This Group gathers on an annual basis scientists, representatives of the private sector and NGOs in order to disseminate information about the complex topic of ocean acidification.

With the upcoming COP 21, Monaco is eager to contribute to the debate with:

  • The Ocean 2015, an initiative launched by the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI) and supported by my Foundation and the IAEA. This initiative will gather international experts in order to draft a concrete scheme of action for ocean and coastal areas based on worldwide greenhouse gas emission trends
  • The Climate and Ocean Platform, a multiplayer alliance acting to integrate ocean climate interactions into the upcoming climate negotiations. My Foundation and all the participating organizations in AMAO have joined the Platform.

Preservation of the marine environment is one of the greatest challenges in the coming years. Against a background of rapid technological development, significant scientific progress and persistent legal uncertainty, it is now crucial that we succeed in improving ocean governance.

We need to give the oceans an appropriate status, naturally taking into account each other’s economic and strategic interests, but also incorporating, and I would even say most importantly, the environmental imperatives that should be common to humanity.

It represents as much a moral duty as a vital necessity, because the threats to the oceans today are critical. This is the reason why Monaco is committed in all the fora where it is represented, to promoting greater consideration of the issues with regard to sea regulation. I myself have made this a personal cause, in which I am actively engaged.

Alongside this fight to preserve the seas, we also need to combat global warming, a consequence of greenhouse gas emissions.

3. From your perspective, is there a greater sense of urgency regarding ocean conservation in Europe and, if so, to what do you attribute that higher level of concern?

Ocean conservation is not the exclusive domain of high profile personalities, certain countries or even continents. It is a global issue that concerns us all. Our role is to communicate, promote and facilitate global activities dedicated to ocean conservation. We therefore need to work with scientists, policy makers, citizens, media and other stakeholders.

Maybe the level of awareness in Europe is higher because of our proximity to the sea and the number of environmental disasters and sea pollution we have already suffered.

4. Coastal resiliency—against erosion and inundation, extreme weather events, and the economic impacts of these phenomena—is a growing concern in the U.S. right now. How are Monaco and the rest of Europe considering coastal resiliency with respect to sustainable development? What lessons can we pass along to developing nations and vice versa?

Ocean resilience emphasizes two essential imperatives:

  • The first is the need to act quickly in order to adapt to these changes.  Erosion, flooding and extreme weather events are worldwide modifications of our coasts and as for many environmental issues, the least developed countries are often more severely impacted by these phenomena than developed countries. We bare a common responsibility for environmental changes; thus, consequences have to be managed jointly keeping in mind the importance of preserving our planet for future generations.
  • The second imperative, less frequently mentioned, is the need to consider the ocean not as inert and passive, but as a living organism. All the damage caused to the ocean today will have extremely long-term consequences.

Subsequently, the question of resilience insights us to look at things based on a genuine, and most importantly, a long-term interaction process.

To make progress in these directions, I believe that we need to build on the reality of those experiencing these dangers. And we need to mobilize at all levels, all energies. I am also thinking of the influence of economic players. Right here in the U.S., seashell farmers facing ocean acidification have been able to voice their opinions.

It is important for large countries to set an example to encourage the least advanced countries and emerging countries to elaborate policies in line with the promotion of sustainable development and to identify sources of financing to achieve this. This is the responsibility of major nations such as the U.S.

5. You obviously have a personal connection to the ocean with an amazing family tradition.  How can we better instill those values in our youth who will be the next generation of leaders?

Throughout history, my family has always been linked to the sea, both geographically and emotionally. Flanked by the Alps, Monaco’s rock is fully oriented towards the sea, so much so that until the arrival of the railway in the 1860s, it was far easier to reach Monaco by boat than by land.

The emotional ties have been forged by a few exceptional figures, in particular my great-great-grandfather Prince Albert I. His expeditions and research played an extremely important role in improving knowledge of the sea, the seabed, its currents and the life it harbors.

Our youth is our future. Our generation clearly understood this but didn’t manage to act efficiently in order to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. However, many initiatives are currently being developed, particularly in the field of energy efficiency, which is at the core of every new project. We have contributed to this new ideal and I remain confident that future generations will have the will to preserve the ocean built in their DNA.

Consortium for Ocean Leadership, 19 May 2015. Article.


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