MONACO — Monaco is punching well above its weight in international affairs as it moves forward with a bold effort to safeguard the Ocean. During his address to the United Nations General Assembly Prince Albert II laid out his vision of the future. “Respect for the environment and wild species on land and at sea and supporting science were fundamental priorities for the Princes of Monaco through the centuries,” said His Serene Highness. “Today what was a relentless commitment has become a duty for our survival”.
A lot is at stake in our approach to the world’s Ocean which is home to 80% of the world’s biodiversity. With the Ocean taking up 70% of the surface of the plant it is not surprising that 80% of the world’s population lives on the coast – with an even higher figure living close to major rivers which feed into the seas. The Ocean produces at least 50% of the oxygen on the planet and roughly 30% of the world’s population gets its daily protein from the Ocean.
Barely two weeks after the prince’s speech an important closed-door gathering in Monaco brought together some of the world’s top sovereign wealth funds (SWFs) and others to discuss their strategies for impact investments. The launch of Monaco’s ReOcean Fund earlier in 2023 has created interest from both Ultra High Net Worth Individuals and SWFs. The roundtable gathering in the Principality attracted representatives from the EU, UK, Australasia, and Gulf Countries (GCC). The meeting was organized by ZEL Business Advisory Group.
“This meeting wasn’t about name dropping, it is about getting the right people in the room, and sharing and crafting strategies that will show clear social impact with visible financial returns,” said Zsolt Lavotha of ZEL who is also a past-Chairman of the Monaco Private Equity and Venture Capital Association. “We had hundreds of billions of dollars represented in the room and there was clear recognition that traditional philanthropy and private investment need to find a better way to come together to address the challenges faced by humanity. The Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation is one good example of this effort”.
The gathering committed to driving forward efforts on ocean and wider preservation of the environment. High profile speakers included Lord William Cadogan of the UK’s Cadogan Estates who discussed their approach to sustainable real estate investment, alongside Olivier Wenden, CEO of the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, who pointed out that “you cannot save the climate without focusing on the global Ocean”.
Others in the room included the Abu Dhabi SWF Mubadala with a significant impact investment programme, and which in the days after the Monaco event announced its intention to invest $1 billion a year in Brazil. At the center of this meeting and of other efforts in Monaco is the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, the only NGO in the world with a head of state as its chair. The Foundation is at the forefront of Sustainable Development Goal 14: Life Below Water. As such it is involved in many ocean-based initiatives from fighting plastic pollution to efforts to ban subsea mining.
“The World Economic Forum estimated the world is investing barely $10 billion a year in the Ocean when we should be investing $175 billion each and every year. SDG 14 is the least funded of all the sustainable development goals,” Wenden said, “attracting only 1% of global philanthropy and not a lot of is focused on start-ups”.
Monaco is keen to support start-ups in this space. The Foundation’s ReOcean Fund is especially interested in investing in companies pioneering new technologies and solutions for the Ocean specifically at the pre-Series B financing stage where it sees few other funds are investing. The Monaco meeting is the first of several that are planned. Follow-up meetings are planned in New York in October and additional meetings in Singapore and the Philippines.
The meeting of the group comes just after the conclusion of the Monaco Yacht Show. While that gathering often receives media attention for its glitz and glamor it also includes several side events on sustainability in the ocean that attract less attention, according to Wenden. Some of those also included efforts on land such as GUDMalta, an organization seeking accelerate progress on Africa’s “Great Green Wall” forestation initiative through the provision of carbon credits. “We must admit that philanthropy alone is not sufficient to solve the challenges the world is facing and that is as true on land as at sea. We need to find innovative ways to involve the private sector in our transition to a sustainable world,” said Wenden.
The Monaco effort comes at a time that capital – public and private – is already flowing to a number of ambitious projects. Some like Ocean Clean Up are already in action. Others, like DEEP which has only just emerged from its secretive R&D phase, is behind a ground-breaking project, building undersea habitats for researchers and scientists to study the Ocean. DEEP has already attracted millions in private investment and is also leading the way with innovate lease and ownership options to remove financial barriers that inhibit the ability to study and understand the Ocean.
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