In the fight against climate change, Prince Albert II spared no effort: to draw attention to the melting ice, he traveled with sled dogs from the Russian weather station Barnéo to the North Pole and at minus 40 degrees on touring skis to the South Pole. In the Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea in the southwest of the Philippines he went diving to draw attention to coral death. A few months ago he stayed on the Aldabra Atoll in the Indian Ocean, where the endangered Aldabra giant tortoises live.
Prince Albert II, who turns 65 on Tuesday (March 14), has made the fight against climate change and in particular the protection of the seas one of his political priorities. Last summer he even published the book "L'Homme et l'Océan" (Man and the Ocean) - descriptions of his expeditions and the devastating effects of our actions on the marine world.
Mega project in the sea off Monaco
However, the Antarctic, the Pacific and the Indian Ocean are far away from Monaco, where a mega-project is currently being built in the sea: Mareterra, a luxury district with a mini marina. The apartments are on average 300 square meters, villas even over 3000 square meters. Six hectares of habitat - around eight football fields - were wrested from the sea for this purpose. The seabed was dredged and filled with concrete and sand caissons.
The quarter should be an ecological showpiece - without cars and with up to 40 percent energy from renewable sources. Protected flora and fauna, including 500 square meters of Neptune grass and pen shells, have already been resettled.
Experts are nevertheless critical, such as Alexandre Meinesz, biologist and marine researcher at the University of Nice Sophia Antipolis. In an interview with "Demain la ville", a blog about sustainable cities, he explained that biotopes are generally destroyed when expanding to the sea. As an example, he cites Neptune grass, which only grows back very slowly.
But not an ecological showpiece?
Even the marine biologist Philippe Bornens, who was actually supposed to save marine animals and plants from the concrete for the princely state, was skeptical about "Der Zeit". At first, the prince wanted a project that would not have any impact on the environment. Bornens said he only said he had to cancel it
But Monaco is bursting at the seams. The principality, which is just 2.02 square kilometers in size, is the second smallest state after the Vatican. And with around 40,000 inhabitants, the most densely populated in the world. According to the latest statistics, more than 27,000 of them are millionaires with a net worth of at least one million US dollars. Their number is expected to increase and reach around 39,168 people in 2026. Mareterra should be completed by the end of 2025.
The Principality has created a website for the project with detailed information - also on environmental issues. It is inevitable that an expansion out to sea will have consequences for the natural environment. But we do everything we can to limit them. Among other things, with new construction methods and the resettlement of Neptune grass. Since the 1950s, around 20 percent of Monaco's area has been reclaimed from the Mediterranean Sea.
pragmatism on environmental issues
The prince writes in his book that he is not an advocate of degrowth, the reduction of consumption and production. On the other hand, he is a fervent advocate of pragmatism on environmental issues. Because he is convinced that constraints are not a solution in the fight against environmental pollution. In this way, Albert promotes the switch to electric vehicles, even though every year in May the Formula 1 drivers race through the urban canyons of Monte Carlo at the Grand Prix.
During his almost 18-year reign, Albert has transformed himself from a charmer and passionate sportsman - he took part in several Olympic Winter Games as a bobsledder - into an adept statesman. When he took over office after the death of his father in 2005, he also drew a line under his private life, which had been rather flighty up to that point. He recognized two illegitimate children: the 31-year-old Jazmin, who comes from the relationship with the American ex-waitress Tamara Rotolo, and the now 19-year-old Alexandre from the long-term relationship with the ex-stewardess Nicole Coste from Togo.
In July 2011 he married the ex-professional swimmer Charlène Wittstock, three years later Hereditary Prince Jacques and twin sister Gabriella were born. Since then, the prince's private life has been in the public spotlight again. The couple's separation for months - the princess was staying in her home country South Africa for health reasons - led to persistent speculation about a marital crisis.