MS. STEAD SELLERS: I'd like to start by talking about your foundation. You've been working on ocean conservation for the past 15 years. Can you tell me about some of the signature achievements of those years?
PRINCE ALBERT: Thank you. Yes, absolutely. I'm so proud of what the foundation has been able to accomplish in its 15 years of existence, its 15 years plus, some 700 projects later, for a total of pretty much US$100 million, and we've been able to create extraordinary partnerships with other NGOs, other international organizations, scientific research centers, and the list goes on and goes on.
Of course, the foundation was geared toward environmental issues and sustainable development, with a focus, of course, on developing countries, on both polar regions, on the Mediterranean, but we've had projects all over the world, and not only on oceans, on also the fight against desertification, on water issues, access to water, water management, and then protection of biodiversity as a whole, on land or at sea.
So this has led us to, you know, answer to different urgencies, and work alongside our partners and our donors, but also, in more recent years, to initiate our own projects and launch our own initiatives.
And so I think it's heartwarming to see the welcome we've received from the international environmental community but also from different institutions and different scientists that have really expressed their trust in the foundation and our ability to mobilize different energies, to carry out different initiatives and different projects. And there are so many things that we have done and that we still need to do, but some of the great success stories have to do with biodiversity, and we were able, for instance, pretty early on, to join forces with WWF and other organizations to try to protect different species, emblematic species like the bluefin tuna. Where we were not able to put it under protected status, our efforts led to stricter quotas of their fishing and their capture, and that led to a rebound in the population of bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean.
MS. STEAD SELLERS: I'd like to take a step back and ask you about the inspiration, in 2006, to found the foundation, on what was, I think, the centenary of your great-great-grandfather's famous trip north.
PRINCE ALBERT: What we know it was different things. I already had the idea to create my own foundation and to do something more personal, something more than what my country, the Principality of Monaco, was already doing in favor of environmental issues, and there were different other projects. And so I took the opportunity of this trip to the North Pole and this dogsled trip that I had planned with friends to not only gain a better understanding of what was happening in that polar region, in the Arctic, but also because it was very close to the last trip that my great-great-grandfather took, the last scientific expedition that my great-great-grandfather took almost 100 years ago back then, in 1906, so in the summer of 2005, we retraced his route around Svalbard, around the Svalbard archipelago that belongs to Norway. But then the year after, that spring, was that dogsled trip to the North Pole.
So really, to commemorate his vision and his extraordinary legacy in terms of his scientific endeavors and his love for oceanography and for also protecting our planet, even if it wasn't said in those terms back them. But he already saw the need for protecting different areas of the world, the most sensitive areas of the world.
And so that kind of was the premise, if you want, that launched my willingness to do more for our planet and to try to help in the growing movement to try to protect it even better.
MS. STEAD SELLERS: You mentioned the importance of partnership, and this is clearly an international problem, one that can't be tackled by one country alone. Could you talk a little bit more about the importance of partnership in tackling this international issue?
PRINCE ALBERT: Well, no one can act alone. It's only by coming all together and to pool different expertise and different means and different energies that we can help find the right solutions, not only for climate change but for all the problems that affect our environment, be it on land or at sea. And so we would not have been able to do and to carry out these 700-plus projects if we hadn't partnered with some organizations and stakeholders that had an experience in these areas.
And we were the newcomers. We had a pretty good idea of what we wanted to do in terms of conservation but also in terms of promotion of alternative energies, the need for more protected areas and the importance of water issues, but we needed to have someone that knew the areas that we were trying to deal with, that had relays on the ground, and that could really help point us in the right direction.
So I cannot stress the importance of these partnerships, and to create sort of a community of well thinkers and people who want to put their energy and their time into these absolutely paramount issues for not only the improvement of all ecosystems, be they at sea or on land, but for our own survival, ultimately, on this planet.
MS. STEAD SELLERS: On that note of survival, I'd love it if you could explain, Your Highness, the importance of preserving the oceans and why that is critical for combatting climate change.
PRINCE ALBERT: Absolutely. You know, for such a long time the oceans have kind of remained outside the scope of climate issues, and today everyone agrees that the ocean is absolutely key in the role that it plays, not only for mitigation but for the absorption of greenhouse gas emissions, and so thus combatting climate change. So I think the great news that came out of two years ago was the IPCC special report on the oceans and the cryosphere, so the oceans and all the colder places on our planet, and it gave really precious insights into the interactions between oceans and the planet.
So we really talk about the global ocean but very few people talk about the different oceans of the world. It's one global ocean because we're all connected by this ocean. All the oceans are connected, so it's one global ocean. So you know that it captures 30 percent of human-generated greenhouse gas emissions, and so it has reduced the excess heat also that is resulting from this greenhouse gas effect by some 90 percent since 1970.
So that, and if you have the knowledge that almost half of the oxygen that we breathe every day, or every second, is generated by the ocean, I think these elements alone should be reason enough for us to have to fight for the ocean and to make it an important point on the international agenda.
So I think thanks to the IPCC's report, thanks to different partners that have pushed ocean issues to the forefront of international talks and different international gatherings, and the U.S. was very instrumental in pushing the ocean forward, thanks to Secretary Kerry, in his time, I think we were able to mobilize a lot more energies around oceans and make the global ocean issue a very important point on not only climate negotiations but international fora, in general. So I'm very happy that I was able, and my foundation was able, to be a voice in that debate.
MS. STEAD SELLERS: I think one of the things that people do recognize in terms of the oceans and the importance of the oceans is the way we've polluted them through plastics. How have we been responding? Is there progress, that you're aware of, in combatting this kind of plastic pollution in the oceans?
PRINCE ALBERT: I would say when you mention pollution, plastics is a huge problem and one that has received a lot of attention recently. But let's not forget all the different contaminants that are in the oceans and all the heavy metals that are also in the ocean. And we can only fight one fight at a time, but that is also a very severe problem, and we will have to tackle that as well very soon. Some already are tackling that.
But I think, you know, with 8 to 10 million tons of plastic going into the world ocean every year, this simply cannot continue like this, because it is rendering our different ecosystems in our world ocean very unhealthy and do not render the services that they can delivered to us. And it is also contaminating the food chain and the very food from the sea that we consume.
And so it is, in that respect, but you can widen the debate as much as possible, those are the reasons that are enough to make us react and to find solutions, and some solutions, of course, do exist, not only on the cleanup side but on, you know, offering different alternatives to plastics, offering different solutions in the recycling of different plastics. You know, not all plastics can be recycled, but at least let's try to use those that can be recycled in a relatively easy way. It's not easy. And then, you know, offer to try to change the demand for plastics and to see what alternatives there are, viably and economically viable, of course.
MS. STEAD SELLERS: Are plastics the main challenge going ahead? You mentioned heavy metals. If you were to pick one, what should we focusing on, and how should we be drawing the general public's attention to those needs?
PRINCE ALBERT: Well, you know, I think it's hard to--of course, plastic is the most visible because everybody can see and has seen some wonderful documentaries that have showcased that this issue is a tremendously serious one, and that it is becoming worse every day. And if we don't do something about that very soon, right now, and we are already doing some things, and just to mention one example that the foundation is doing, we've created this network around the Mediterranean--it's called Beyond Plastic Med--to link different communities around the Mediterranean to set up different programs to combat plastic pollution. And that is very successful. It's on a smaller scale but it can be replicated in other parts of the world.
MS. STEAD SELLERS: Your Highness, through your leadership and through your foundation you have made Monaco a leader in terms of trying to reverse some of these trends, but how do we make sure that those sorts of trends are sustainable in other parts of the world, including the developing world, which I know is a concern of your foundation's?
PRINCE ALBERT: Well, you know, it's just trying to apply very simple mechanisms and very simple ways of living more sustainably and using resources in a much more sustainable way. And so, of course, the developing countries are saying, "Hold on. We're not the big emitters of the world. We are just trying to develop in the way that we can, and you're trying to impose the same rules as others," of course that's not fair and that's not equitable. And so that's why the leadership of all of the big countries is absolutely paramount in the fight against climate change, in the fight against different forms of pollution, and in the fight also, I also think, of, of course, overfishing. We haven't talked about that yet, but that's a huge problem if you look at marine issues. The big fleets, the big fishing fleets come from big countries, and it's not the occasional fisherman from an African country, for instance, who makes a difference. It's the big commercial fishing fleets that catch whatever they can. It is regulated, and it's supposed to be regulated, but there's a lot of unregulated fishing out there.
So it's all these issues that if you don't pay attention to them in our developed countries and how can we preach what we should be doing in our country to the developing countries. So we have to help them through [audio distortion] business and through, of course, the right funding and in the appropriate manner, to the right channels.
MS. STEAD SELLERS: You mentioned overfishing, and I found captivating, when I was reading about you, your story of the bluefin tuna, which was actually banned in restaurants in Monaco. Am I correct?
PRINCE ALBERT: Yes, that was part of our response to cut the demand. If you don't propose something on your menu or in different outlets, and if you explain to customers why that is, they understand, and then there's not as much demand for it. Okay, you're going to say that the number of restaurants in Monaco doesn't make that much of a big difference on the world stage, of course, but it was, I think, symbolic enough that it was able to--some other towns and cities and even countries also did that around the Mediterranean until the stocks were able to rebound.
But there's such a demand, as you know, for fish. The average fish consumption around the world has almost tripled in the last 50 years. We cannot go on in that trend. And so we have to offer alternatives and make sure that fishing is done in a more sustainable way.
MS. STEAD SELLERS: You have made impressive goals to be carbon neutral and also to eliminate single-use plastic, but also to commit to sustainable solutions. Could you talk about that in terms of the opportunities it offers for a small country like Monaco, and others?
PRINCE ALBERT: Well, we've worked on a lot of different issues, ranging from turning our services, our government services, but also, of course, individuals toward clean energy but toward also clean mobility, and to offer different incentives to buy hybrid or electric vehicles. We have almost now 10 percent of the overall fleet of vehicles in Monaco that is either hybrid or electric. So for a country of less than 40,000 in population, that's a pretty good ratio.
We also work, and we have an energy transition plan that will enable us not only to turn, of course, more toward renewable energies, and solar is a big part of that, but also to connect more buildings to our thalassothermal loop, which, as you know, getting heat exchange seawater pumps. That is a technology that is well known and that has been in place in buildings in Monaco for the last 50 years. And then to work, of course, on greener buildings and on positive energy buildings. That's really a very important part of our carbon dioxide or greenhouse gas emissions scheme.
And so, you know--and I could go on and on, of course, better treatment of our waste, and we are looking at different ways of changing our waste management plant. And so all these things combined, we are still on target right now to the goals that we announced and set after the Paris agreement, and that is to have a 55 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, and carbon neutrality by 2050. Most countries have set the same types of goals, but I don't know how many are still on target. But I can assure you that we are on target and we will reach those goals.
MS. STEAD SELLERS: Your Highness, I think I have time for one or two last questions. A study recently talked about potentially drastic changes to Atlantic Ocean currents. How optimistic are you, given the work you've been doing for the past 15 years, as we look ahead, that we can combat some of these dangerous trends?
PRINCE ALBERT: Well, you know, quite simply, I don't know. I try to get as many scientific information and data and advice as possible, but I really don't know. At the rate with which the ice cap in Greenland is melting, I have a feeling that that cold water will have an effect on the North Atlantic currents in the very near future.
So we just need to go ahead, as much as possible, in all of our countries, with our greenhouse gas emission reductions as quickly as possible. The effects are not going to be felt overnight, but at least we'll have a window of opportunity to limit average world temperatures, the famous 1.5 degrees that is the target, that unfortunately a lot of experts say that that is beyond our reach right now and that the average temperatures will be much higher in the future. But we still have a small window of opportunity to help reduce that or to help mitigate those effects, and so we have to do everything we can to mitigate those effects and to limit the disastrous consequences of climate change that we are already witnessing.
MS. STEAD SELLERS: Your Highness, I'd love to fit in one last brief question. You've traveled to some of the most critically important parts of the world, the North and South Poles. If you have a message to people that you would like them to take away about those places, what would it be?
PRINCE ALBERT: It would be I've never stopped--and I know I shared this with a few people that I've been able to talk to around the world--I've never stopped being amazed at the beaty of our planet. And if you just look at the places that you love or that you've traveled to and that made an impact on you, try to say to yourself, "I want my children and my grandchildren to see that same beauty." And I hope that we will be able to look our children or our grandchildren in the eyes and say, "Listen, I did all that I could to help save these beautiful, pristine places around the world, for you to enjoy and for you to be able to have a future." And I sincerely hope that we will be able to tell our kids and our grandkids that, because that's the only way forward. If we keep their livelihood and their interests in mind and in our hearts, we will be able to win this battle.
MS. STEAD SELLERS: Your Highness, that's an inspiring note to finish on. I hope I shall be able to communicate that to my children and grandchildren. Thank you so much for joining us.
PRINCE ALBERT: Thank you very much.
MS. STEAD SELLERS: I’m sorry, we have to leave it there. That’s all we have time for. If you would like to look at future programming, please go to WashingtonPostLive.com. I’m Frances Stead Sellers, and thank you for joining us.
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