Once, he was written about for his private life. When and whom would Prince Albert of Monaco marry? Today, the head of the Mediterranean principality is in the news for different reasons. He has established himself as a key player in protecting the environment. Prince Albert has been explaining to euronews why trying to save Planet Earth has become a major part of his life.
euronews: Your Serene Highness, thank you for talking to euronews.
Prince Albert: Thank you.
euronews: Since becoming Monaco’s sovereign, you have earned yourself the nıckname the ‘Green Prınce.’ I am wondering, with so many worthwhile causes out there, why did you pick the environment as a priority?
Prince Albert: Well you know, I have been involved for a number of years with my father, and with the principality, with the state, in different initiatives. At the second Earth Summit in 2002 in Johannesburg, that is when I really felt that there was a need to start doing more in that area. So when I took over from from my father, I made that a priority, not only for Monaco as a state, for Monaco as a city state, for the Monegasque people, but for myself personally and that is why I also created the foundation that bears my name and that is totally devoted to environmental issues and trying to be an actor on the ground.
euronews: Well no-one can accuse you of doing things by half. You have signed the Kyoto Protocol. You have trekked to the North and South Poles. Why were those trips to the environmental ‘frontline’ as it were, so important for you?
Prince Albert: Well I think it was important to be able to experience things personally and to be able to go to these very troublesome areas if you want, in environmental terms, these very fragile areas that are clear indicators of climate change. That is why I went to the Arctic. Also, I tried to link that with the 100th anniversary of my great great grandfather Prince Albert 1’s Arctic expeditions. And then, last January, I went to Antarctica.
euronews: Now when it comes to being an environmentally-friendly prince, you have got a bit of competition, haven’t you?
Prince Albert: Prince Charles?
euronews: Absolutely, Prince Charles.
Prince Albert: Well, that is not competition! It is a partnership!
euronews: Well, this is what I am thinking. Surely two princes would be better than one. Have you ever thought about putting your heads together on a joint project?
Prince Albert: We have talked about it already. It is hard to combine both our schedules to have a substantial debate about this but we are studying, right now, the possibilities of collaborating.
euronews: Now I don’t know about the Prince of Wales. But certainly in your case, love of nature and the environment seems almost to be in your DNA. It is something of a family tradition. You have mentioned your great great grandfather and your father, the late Prince Rainier. He inspired you, didn’t he, in your environmental awakening by giving you a rather unusual map back in the 1970s.
Prince Albert: Yes, absolutley. It was a map that was issued by National Geographic in 1970, so almost 40 years ago, and if you see it and read the text, it is entitled “How Man pollutes his world.” The issues that it talks about are still the same issues of today, of not only pollution issues and waste management issues, but deforestation, overfishing.
euronews: This map is still hugely important to you, isn’t it? I read somewhere that you travel with it on some of your expeditions.
Prince Albert: I travel with a smaller version of it (laughs) not the whole thing! It was in my room for many years and obviously I looked at it intently when I first got it but then I sort of forgot about it – it was there on the wall. But it is only in recent years that I said: ‘I read that somewhere else before.’ And it was right there all the time.
euronews: I know a cause very close to your heart is the protection of blue fin tuna. Why is that so important?
Prince Albert: If we let this species go, well that is a big gap in the marine eco-system of the Mediterranean and the southern part of the Atlantic and that has huge consequences on the food chain and on the entire eco system.
euronews: Now when you say the name Monaco, I think, for many people, labels spring to mind – the most obvious being ‘tax haven.’ Otherwise, it is often ‘millionaires’ playground.’ And dare I say, you yourself, you were portrayed in the popular press for many years as ‘Playboy Prince.’ Now, how far do you think the work you are doing with the environment is helping to change that image?
Prince Albert: Well, I didn’t undertake all of this just as part of an image change. The reality of Monaco has always been a little different than that which was portrayed in certain media. It is not just the casinos and luxury tourism although that is a very important part of our economy. But it is not the only part. There is a lot more that is being done in Monaco, in scientific terms, in research, in education, in culture and in sports.
euronews: The tax haven tag remains, for obvious reasons.
Prince Albert: For obvious reasons. But I think we have been able to deal with that pretty successfully by being off the different lists as far as fiscal information and as money laundering goes and so I think we have been able to prove that we have gone way beyond that image, although I am very realistic and I am sure it is going to cling to us still for a while longer.
euronews: We have got the Copenhagen summit coming up at the end of the year which seeks to build on Kyoto – the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. How optimistic are you that a meaningful decision will be taken in the Danish capital?
Prince Albert: I don’t know if it is a question of optimism or pessimism. It is a question that…we have to have a deal. As Mr Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary General of the United Nations says: “seal the deal.” We cannot afford not to have another text that will be the text of reference for carbon emissions, for quotas, for the next generation, so we have to find a compromise.
euronews: Just finally, to end on an optimistic note. If there was one piece of advice you could give to people like me – unsuccessful environmentalists, reluctant environmentalists perhaps – something I could do tomorrow that really would make a difference. What would you suggest?
Prince Albert: It is just we have to reexamine not only our way of living but our conception of what quality of life means to us. And we have to move away from a society that is obsessed with consumption and consumerism. And it has to mean something else and I am not sure what it has to mean or what it will mean but we cannot go on the way we are going today.
euronews: Your Serene Highness, thank you.
Prince Albert: Thank you very much