Two months before addressing heads of state and experts at the 5th World Water Forum and related summit in Istanbul today, Monaco’s ruler, Prince Albert II, trekked through the South Pole on skis pulling a supply sled between meetings with dozens of scientists in Antarctica to witness Ğ and call attention to Ğ the effects of global warming.
Upon his accession to the throne in 2005, the monarch made environmental protection in the international arena one of his top priorities. Motivated by the effects of global warming on the thinning sea ice during a trek to the North Pole in 2006, the prince decided to set up a foundation dedicated to the protection of the environment. At the forum Tuesday, he will discuss work supported around the world by the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation.
In January, Prince Albert crossed Antarctica, from west to east, visiting more than 20 research stations in 17 days. With the expedition he said he intended to raise international awareness of the dangers of global warming and promote scientific research in the polar region by lending support to the 5,000 men and women working there. In his interview with the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review by email, the prince underlined Antarctica’s distinctive vulnerability and value as a research base.
"You know that the colder the ocean, the greater the volume of carbon dioxide that can dissolve in it; thus it is the icy waters of the Polar Regions that will suffer the first effects of acidification," he said. Every year the ocean absorbs a third of the carbon dioxide produced by human activities, he said.
The prince explained the effects of ocean acidification caused by carbon dioxide on phytoplankton’s changing role in the food chain.
"These organisms play a vital role in the food chain because they are the food for small crustaceans such as Krill which feed whales and many other vertebrates," he said. "But these organisms also play a major role in absorbing the carbon dioxide through photosynthesis."
Last month, the prince, who won an award in 2008 from the UN Environment Programme, or UNEP for efforts to safeguard the planet, addressed the "Peace with Water" conference at the European Parliament. "We cannot settle water-related conflicts through bilateral agreements. We will advance by making water a tool in the service of harmony, an instrument for the development of populations," he said.
The prince will address the Heads of State Summit today at 2:30 p.m. at the Çırağan Kempinsky Hotel. Tomorrow he will discuss his foundation’s work at the forum venue at 1:15 p.m. www.worldwaterforum5.org.
Interview with Prince
Albert II of Monaco
Daily News: Have you seen evidence people are starting to understand their role in climate change?
Prince Albert II: Awareness of climate change is underway. Awareness of man’s responsibility in this phenomenon is slower but it is developing.
I see that young people are actually more aware than their elders, firstly because they are more responsive to the threats to our ecosystems, but also because they have more respect for nature, since they are closer to it. Unlike adults, I believe that young people are less imprisoned by unbridled and careless consumption habits, which they have not had the time to acquire.
For me, awareness of personal responsibility will be truly effective in our societies when, for example, the relationship with the car changes. Of course, it is not a question of banning it but favoring clean vehicles and encouraging the use of public transport. This personal responsibility can also be exercised in our choice of heating, resorting to more or less significant use of traditional air conditioning when solar energy air conditioners are starting to appear, notably in the southern countries.
Daily News: As water is increasingly considered a commodity and a trade resource, particularly in this region, how does it become harder for countries and corporations to view it as a global resource? What is bringing countries and corporations together to share water resources?
Prince Albert: You are completely right to highlight that water is increasingly perceived as a commodity and a trade resource. At the same time, awareness that it is a much less inexhaustible commodity than thought is growing. It therefore remains a means of enrichment, because it allows irrigation and farming and, conversely, is also a way of weakening neighbors for those who are able to monopolize access to it.
However, water is the source of life. And access to water and sanitation is above all a right. Only recognition of this fundamental right and the absolute necessity to respect it will lead to sustainable and fair management of this vital resource.
Daily News: What good can come of the water forum and the World Water Council’s efforts?
Prince Albert II: This forum brings together heads of state and government, civil society, the private sector and consumer associations, who meet here to consider ways in which to overcome the divisions for water with a view to facilitating access to it for everyone, especially the poorest or most vulnerable people in southern countries.
According to UNESCO, 884 million people do not always have access to clean drinking water. 2.5 billion inhabitants on the planet do not have access to basic sanitary facilities and are, because of this, exposed to many diseases. Every day, 10,000 people die from water-related diseases.
The water forum and the World Water Council therefore constitute privileged arenas for solemnly recalling these tragic figures which illustrate how access to water and sanitation are major and global issues.
However, the Millennium Development Goals have already enabled progress and since 1990, 1.6 billion people have gained access to clean drinking water. This proves that if mobilization increases, the trend can be reversed.
Today, technology makes it possible to resolve water-related problems. However, what is often lacking is the political will and financial backing necessary to implement these resources.