National Press Club

Prince Albert Encourages Action on Global Warming; Reception Photos Available

December 1, 2009 | By Richard Lee |

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Environmental concerns are alarmingly bigger today than when his great-grandfather spoke at the National Press Club on the same topic, Monaco's Prince Albert II said at a sold-out Nov. 30 Luncheon.

Prince Albert I spoke at the Club in October 1913.

“With Theodore Roosevelt, he was one of the first heads of state to understand the importance of conservation, of large areas and species,” Albert said. “He was known as the Scholar Prince. Albert I was curious about his times, and indefatigable traveler who helped spread Monaco’s name well beyond the shores of the Mediterranean, all the way to this continent. Albert I was a man of progress who continues to inspire my actions.”

Albert II, tall, balding, bespectacled and conservatively attired in a medium-gray suit, white shirt and red tie, made brief remarks and took a number of questions about his leading role as a concerned environmentalist.

To aid in this effort, he created, three years ago, the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation.

“It has a three-fold mission,” he said. “Fighting the effects of climate change, striving to promote biodiversity, and preserving water resouces. It is the great challenge of our time, the protection of our planet.”

He has investigated the impact of global warming with personal expeditions to the North and South Poles. Early this year, he took a month-long tour of Antarctica, “mainly to meet scientists who are working there. I was able to visit 26 different research stations all around Antarctica. I crossed paths with truly exceptional people, men and women. I had an incredible time.

“What is happening in these very fragile regions concerns the future of all of us,” he said “Global warming and rising sea levels, pollution threats, and threats to biodiversity, there more than elsewhere the planet’s woes are visible to the naked eye, perceptible on a human scale.”

His foundation supports “over 120 projects all over the world. Some of them are directly operational, while others aim to raise awareness among populations or aid scientific research.”

Partners include the U.N. Foundation, the Smithsonian Institution, the Aspen Institute, Conservation International, the Chicago Field Museum, the Clinton Global Initiative, and others.

“Our survival ultimately is at stake,” he said. “We will have to travel, consume, work and live in a different way. We will have to help the most fragile, the poorest countries, so that they too can advance by our side. While they have less responsibility than others for the perils threatening us, they are today their first victims.

“All this requires greater solidarity towards those who are suffering today and toward those who will suffer tomorrow if we do nothing at all. Scientific data, I think, although it is now under review, for me is unquestionable. Challenging this data means agreeing to the sacrifice of future generations to our selfish conduct.

“It’s still not too late to take action,” he said. “We can still avert most worst-case scenarios.”

Albert will attend the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit in December, which he said is an “historic opportunity to bring together around a single objective all the countries in the world under the aegis of the United Nations.”

But he said he is realistic about what can be accomplished there.

“The road that is opening up to us is still long,” he said. After Copenhagen, we should be able to lay the groundwork for sincere international cooperation on an issue that concerns all the world’s peoples, regardless of their wealth, geographic location, lifestyles or culture. We will need everyone’s efforts.”

His great-grandfather did four Arctic expeditions. On one of them his crew took a “wonderful” photograph of the Lilliehook glacier on the island of Spitzbergen, halfway between Norway and the North Pole. “We were able to compare it photographically and visually, and since 1906, it has receded some 4 and ½ miles. So that’s one evidence that I saw.”

His father, Prince Ranier III, was also interested in the environment, and set up a sanctuary for marine animals in the Mediterranean “that has been a kind of model for other sanctuaries around the world,” he said.

Albert's mother, the late Princess Grace, was also an Academy Award-winning movie star in the 1950s, before she met and married Ranier. Which of her films is his favorite? “I would have to go with ‘Rear Window,’” he said. I mean, I like all of them. But ‘Rear Window,’ I think has a great story, and an incredible quality to it. The relationship in the movie between Jimmy Stewart and my mom was simply magical.”

Albert reigns over the second smallest country in the world, after the Vatican. Are there advantages in being small? “Yes, there are,” he said, smiling, and to audience laughter. “You try to fit in between the big guys and try to help bridge these gaps. And I’ve tried to on environmental issues. I’ve also tried to get the small countries in Europe together, and we had a meeting in Monaco a couple of years ago to get a little consensus on what smaller countries can do. We can be interesting test grounds to try out different innovative policies, in transportation, in recycling, in alternative energies.”