For more than a century, Monaco’s preservation and cultivation of environmental awareness have been at the forefront of the Mediterranean destination.
In its White Paper on Responsible Tourism in Monaco, released last year, Monaco details the city-state’s continued efforts to support sustainable and responsible tourism for one of Europe’s most beloved travel destinations.
Long before conservation and climate change were the issues they are today, Prince Albert I, an avid environmentalist, created the Oceanographic Institute in Monaco in 1906, with the goal in mind of encouraging people to “know, love, and protect the oceans.”
Now, the principality aims to increase these efforts based on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
White Paper on Responsible Tourism in Monaco
In the paper, Monaco aims to identify its strengths and weaknesses in making tourism to the principality more sustainable. The paper was produced by Monaco’s Tourist and Convention Authority and François Tourisme Consultants, Monaco’s destination’s partners, and assistance from the Mission for Energy Transition and the support of the Department of the Environment.
The new goals, much in the spirit of his great-great-grandfather, were commissioned by H.S.H. Prince Albert II, head of the Princely House of Grimaldi. They include targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55 percent from 1990 levels by 2030. Monaco is aiming to become fully carbon neutral by 2050.
“I took a trip to the Arctic region in 2005 to reenact the last scientific campaign of my great-great-grandfather Prince Albert I, who traveled around Svalbard, around Spitsbergen, in 1906. [Spitsbergen is the largest island of the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard.] Pictures taken by my great-great-grandfather, and from scientific accounts, showed that things were rapidly changing in the Arctic region,” he told the Los Angeles Times in 2020.
“There’s one picture of a bay in the northern part of Spitsbergen called Lilliehöökbreen glacier. The glacier had retreated some 6 kilometers in a century,” he said. That’s a pretty dramatic and visible impact. So I thought to myself, it’s time that I put the wheels in motion and got this foundation off the ground. In June of 2006, I launched the foundation.”
The Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation was established just a year after his accession—specifically to address climate change, as well as preserve the region’s biodiversity, and conserve water resources.
“In recent decades, tourism has established itself as a major industry in the global economy, reflecting the growing aspirations of people in the modern world,” Prince Albert II wrote in the report. “At the same time, its sometimes dramatic impacts on our planet and its natural balances have become all too visible. Some practices have proved to be especially harmful, particularly in terms of climate change or the damage caused to ecosystems.”
But, he wrote, despite the very real extent of this damage, “it would be unfair to condemn all tourist activity.”
“The Principality of Monaco is acutely aware of this need, with tourism having been vitally important to our country’s economy, art de vivre, and international standing for over a century and a half.”
According to the Monaco Government Tourist & Convention Authority, the paper is the culmination of efforts that started in 2020, as Covid greatly reduced travel. Monaco took that time to evaluate how the destination can become more conscious of its responsibilities.
Sustainability in Monaco
Destination Monaco and its partners say they’ve begun to implement some of the targets outlined in the white paper, including binding environmental certifications already adopted by a majority of the region’s hotels; nearly 90 percent of Monaco’s Monaco’s hotels have some sort of third-party sustainability certifications.
The tourist destination has increased its efforts to encourage biking and walking, as well as public transport. It added biodiesel buses and electric shuttle boats. It also added an e-bike-sharing program.
Valode & Pistre Architectes, one of France’s most highly regarded architectural practices, is developing Mareterra, an eco-district slated to open in Monaco in 2025. The community will feature residential, cultural, and recreational spaces all designed using pioneering and sustainable building techniques. It will include e-bike stations, a marina, and a seafront promenade. The project says the name “Mareterra” is inspired by the two complementary elements of the project: the sea and the land.
“I wanted this new area to embody the excellence and conviviality which distinguish the Principality of Monaco so well,” H.S.H. Prince Albert II is quoted on the Mareterra website. “Mareterra will integrate perfectly with our shoreline, and in a few years will be seen as a natural extension of our territory.”
Fine dining establishments across the region, including the Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer Group, have committed to seasonal, local menus and incorporating sustainability initiatives like recycling, reducing food waste, and working with the Terre de Monaco, an organic rooftop garden. Monaco is also home to the world’s first fully organic Michelin-starred restaurant, Elsa, located in the Monte Carlo beach resort.
“Elsa is a philosophy, a way of life. Respecting nature, respecting your body, eating healthy, and enjoying it! This is the well-being we aspire to,” Dimitri de Andolenko, who leads the sustainability projects at the resort, told Architectural Digest last year. “Elsa respects the environment by favoring local purchases, using green electricity, and limited paper consumption.”
A clean beaches campaign brought 8,000 ashtrays to the beaches to prevent cigarette butt litter—cigarette butts are the main source of ocean pollution and can be more harmful to marine life than plastic.
But plastic is a consideration, too; Monaco is aiming to hit zero single-use plastic waste by 2030. Already it’s banned single-use plastic bags, straws, plates, cups, and cutlery.
“Monaco is an incubator of sustainable solutions. We’re a laboratory for innovative ideas in sustainable development which can be fully expressed here before being scaled-up,” Olivier Wenden, VP and CEO of the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, said. “Moving forward, a greener path is full of promises and opportunities—and worth it.”
Prince Albert says the country is partly motivated by its size—it’s a small country, smaller than New York’s Central Park.
“By proving that a small country like us can have ambitious goals, such as the reduction of greenhouse gases. I’m confident that we are going to meet our goals in time. Of course, you’re going to say it’s easier to do so on a smaller scale. And it’s easier to do so when you don’t have very polluting industries and you don’t have big, heavy industrial complexes. But if we don’t play our part, others won’t be enticed to play their part,” he told the LA Times.
“The example should come from larger countries. It’s a question of political will and having the right policies to implement the solutions. I wish that all countries—large or small, and especially those that have the responsibility, that are the biggest polluters or have the biggest impact on greenhouse gas emissions—realize that,” he said.
Last March, Monaco’s Scientific Centre partnered with French luxury house Chanel to preserve the region’s Mediterranean red coral.
“This type of partnership allows us to once again look at problems that have never been solved,” explained Françoise Gaill, emeritus research director at the CNRS, during an interview with news channel Monaco Info at the time of the announcement. “The results will allow us to retrace the origins of the coral…to explore current issues, which are the ocean, our societies, our cultures and all in the context of future generations and their relationship with sustainable development.”
Mediterranean red coral has been worn as jewelry for thousands of years. But the species, which grows just two to eight millimeters per year, is under threat from ocean acidification and rising sea temperatures. Chanel and the Scientific Centre co-created the Research Unit on the Biology of Precious Corals. The research unit is working to develop better understanding of the coral’s life processes and looking at means to further protect the species.
Last July, the project introduced red coral colonies into underwater caves off Monaco’s coast in an effort to boost reproduction for the struggling species.
In Monte-Carlo, both the Monte-Carlo Beach and Monte-Carlo Bay earned the prestigious Green Globe Gold certification for sustainability efforts. the beach has a bird preservation zone, and with help from Prince Albert’s foundation, the bay has efforts in place to preserve the habitat for a local Mediterranean seahorse species.
“Because the Mediterranean Sea lies on our doorstep, and we know just how fragile it is, because we have a long-standing commitment to a host of environmental protection initiatives, both locally and in many other places around the world, and because we want the best for future generations, we are eager to play our part in re-inventing tourism,” wrote Prince Albert II.
“For us, this is a deeply important issue, and one that addresses the needs of both the visitors we welcome today, and those we will continue to welcome in the future.”
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