CNBC Meets: Defining Values

H.S.H. Prince Albert II:Guardian of the seas

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H.S.H. Prince Albert II:
Guardian of the seas

Tireless philanthropy

His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco is known as the Green Prince.  The prince has spent his adult life raising awareness about nature and climate change on a national and international level, inspiring progress across governments, businesses and in school classrooms.

After establishing his eponymous foundation in 2006, Prince Albert II became the first head of state to visit both the North and South Poles to learn more about climate change. In 2010 he launched the Monaco Blue Initiative, an annual gathering of world-renowned experts and policy makers to discuss the greatest threats to our oceans and how we can overcome them.

I think it's a collective effort. I’m just trying to play my part in drawing attention to the cause of oceans and their true value.”
Prince Albert II
Prince Albert II in Antarctica in 2009. He is the first head of state to visit both the South and North poles.

“The global ocean is facing a crisis of unprecedented nature, and we need to find new solutions not only for ocean preservation, but to be able to prove that the ocean not only is important for all that we know already scientifically, but that it has resources that have tremendous value for us,” he told “CNBC Meets: Defining Values.”

Research shows the value of key ocean assets is at least $24 trillion, giving them an equivalent gross domestic product of the world’s seventh largest economy. Our oceans are also vital in tackling climate change, as they capture at least 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

As recent climate change protests show, concerns about the environment are growing, but the prince has long been involved in tackling issues such as the bleaching of coral reefs, plastic pollution and overfishing.

“I think just these elements alone are sufficient to say that we have to take better care of our oceans, but we have to take better care of how we produce, how we live and how we consume,” he told CNBC’s Tania Bryer. “And if we lose key components of what makes the oceans so invaluable to life on earth, then we will run into some serious problems.”

In just under 10 years, the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation has donated more than 51 million euros to 470 global projects, from studies on climate change and species conservation to tackling the acidification of the oceans and deforestation.

Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International, told CNBC: “The most important thing that impresses everybody about Prince Albert is his genuine belief and genuine passion in protecting the environment. That comes across every time he speaks about these issues.”

Now in its 10th year, the Monaco Blue Initiative, held in March during Monaco Ocean Week, gathered more than 140 participants from 26 countries.

“I think it's a collective effort. I’m just trying to play my part in drawing attention to the cause of oceans and their true value.”

The prince’s great-great grandfather, Prince Albert I, helps establish GEBCO, an initiative to map the ocean’s floor.
Prince Albert I establishes the Institute of Oceanography.
Prince Albert I opens the Monaco Oceanographic Museum.
Albert I’s great grandson, Prince Rainier III, is instrumental in setting up the RAMOGE Agreement, which protects Mediterranean coastal waters.
Prince Rainier III champions The Pelagos Sanctuary for Mediterranean marine mammals between Monaco, Italy and France.
Albert II establishes the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation and travels to the North Pole.
Prince Albert II undertakes a month-long expedition to the South Pole.
Prince Albert II establishes the Monaco Blue Initiative.
The 10th edition of the Monaco Blue Initiative takes place, dedicated to Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).
His Serene Highness delivering a speech at a climate change conference in Brussels in February 2019.
Famous heritage

Born in 1958, Prince Albert II’s love of nature was cultivated as a child by his parents, Prince Rainier III of Monaco and Hollywood icon Grace Kelly.

“My mother loved to take us on walks in the mountains or the hills and she would point out different species that she identified, both fauna and flora. But then also, my father would ... we went out on different boats and on different vessels, mostly in the summer. And he would point out different things that we needed to know about, the Mediterranean Sea in particular, but about oceans as a whole.”

The prince’s love of nature and protecting the environment goes back much further than his parents. The head of state’s great, great grandfather, Prince Albert I, dedicated much of his life to studying the oceans and became known as the “Prince of the Seas.” He was one of the first to write about overfishing, when the oceans were seen to have limitless abundance, and studied how to map the ocean floor. He went on to open the Institute of Oceanography and the Monaco Oceanographic Museum in the early 20th century.

Prince Albert II’s first memory of visiting the Oceanographic Museum was as a two-year-old child, alongside his older sister, Princess Caroline. He told CNBC he’s been coming back to the museum throughout his life to study the items his ancestor collected during his 28 scientific expeditions around the globe. It’s a legacy that’s affected the prince “in a tremendous way.”

“He was a man of incredible vision, incredible foresight that he had, not only for the ocean and his love for the sea and navigation, but for the development of science and the furthering of our knowledge on different ecosystems even if that word didn't exist back then and the need for not only marine, but also terrestrial areas that had to be better protected,” he told CNBC.

His father, Prince Rainier III, assumed the ecological family mantle, helping to establish the Pelagos Sanctuary for marine mammals between France, Monaco and Italy, as well as a new measure to protect Mediterranean coastal waters, known as the RAMOGE project.

Things are unfortunately deteriorating very rapidly and there are new threats that have appeared that my great, great grandfather or my father could not foresee.”
Prince Albert II

“My father gave me this poster from National Geographic back in the very early 70s, so I was a young teenager. It showed how man polluted his world. And the issues that they talked about, whether it was water pollution, air, or terrestrial ... The issues that they talk about on this poster are still very much present today. So we haven't really, in almost 50 years, found the right solutions to counter these threats,” he said.

The poster hangs in the Prince’s Palace of Monaco. It’s a reminder of what is important to the prince, and the need to continue with this work.

“That (my heritage) could only inspire me to continue in this vein and to see what better ways we can find to not only further our understanding of marine ecosystems and the crucial issues that concern our oceans. And of course, in the view that things are unfortunately deteriorating very rapidly and there are new threats that have appeared that my great, great grandfather or my father could not foresee,” he told CNBC.

Prince Albert II with school children in Hamburg during Climate Week 2018. The prince places great importance on working with future generations.
They (children) will be in charge in a few years, and they will be in positions of responsibility where they will be able to take more effective action.”
Prince Albert II
A green and blue future

Prince Albert II’s passion to help the environment shows no sign of abating. He and other leaders across the world are negotiating with the UN to establish a Global Ocean Treaty, including making sure that 30% of the oceans are protected by 2030 — up from less than 10% today.

Brune Poirson, the French secretary of state to the minister for the ecological and inclusive transition and a participant at the Monaco Blue Initiative, told CNBC: “There (are) a bunch of initiatives, but I think we need to accelerate that. We need to do more. And Prince Albert is very much aware of it.”

For the prince, international collaboration is at the forefront of progress. He has met with Chinese President Xi Jinping, most recently in March, and the prince told CNBC he was encouraged by China’s efforts to find solutions regarding air and water pollution.

“I think the very simple message from Monaco for this Ocean Week and from our Monaco Blue Initiative Conference is that the oceans are suffering, but we have the means, and we have the people that want to do something and want to find the solutions, be they legally, be they technically, be they technologically. We have everything at our disposal to make a difference right now,” he told CNBC.

The prince continued: “We all share the same destiny on the same planet. And so if one voice speaks out, hopefully others will join and it’ll be a much bigger voice when we're all together.”

While governments, businesses and scientists tackle the issues, Prince Albert II believes we all hold a degree of individual responsibility to take better care of the environment.

“I think very early on, my sisters and I understood the value of nature and what it can do for us, and that we are part of nature,” he told CNBC. “Even if we are all seemingly intelligent beings and we're at the top of the food chain, that doesn't mean that we have to remove ourselves from nature. We depend on nature to survive … it is our responsibility also to take care of our home, planet Earth.”

As to the future, Prince Albert II thinks working with the next generations is very important. His two young twins, Princess Gabriella and the heir to the throne, Prince Jacques, are just four years old, but the prince said his children are already in touch with their natural surroundings.

“The fact also that we have a property outside of Monaco, up on the mountain, where we have a farm, and we have a beautiful vegetable garden there, too, so we're able to teach them what it means to grow your own food, your own vegetables, and to be able to pet different farm animals. I hope that they will continue to want to know more about nature and about how this world really works and what beautiful things and beautiful resources that it offers.”

The prince also mentioned visiting a classroom of eight-year-olds in Monaco who were working on a school project about the ocean.

“To say they take ownership of this and that it’s their responsibility, well that’s a great sign of hope. That’s half the battle right there. They will be in charge in a few years, and they will be in positions of responsibility where they will be able to take more effective action. And so if we're able to instil that in their minds and hearts now, the future will look brighter.”


Writer: Rachael Revesz
Design and code: Bryn Bache
Editor: Matt Clinch
Series Presenter and Executive Producer: Tania Bryer
Series Executive Producer: Martin Conroy
Series Producer: Ged Cleugh
Series Associate Producer: Michelle Blackwell
Images: CNBC and Getty Images