Cleaning Up: Leadership in an Age of Climate Change has the great privilege of welcoming H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco to launch our ninth season.
For our 123rd episode, Michael and Prince Albert have a wide-ranging and insightful discussion, on the work of the Prince Albert II Foundation to safeguard the planet and its oceans; the Prince's lineage and its deep connections to oceanography; the Prince's adventures and the awakening on climate they prompted; and the joys of success - and the perils of failure - in winter sports.
The episode was recorded at the Palais Princier de Monaco. Cleaning Up would like to thank the Royal Household and all those inside and outside of the Palace who supported production of this special episode.
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Short on time? Read the Edited Highlights here: CLICK HERE
Relevant Guest & Topic Links
Learn more about the work of the Fondation Prince Albert II de Monaco: CLICK HERE
Watch Cleaning Up Episode 7 with Bertrand Piccard here: CLICK HERE
Watch Cleaning Up Episode 96 with Aksel Lund Svindal here: CLICK HERE
H.S.H. Prince Albert, Alexandre, Louis, Pierre, Sovereign Prince of Monaco, was born on 14 March 1958. His Highness is the son of Prince Rainier III, Louis Henri-Maxence-Bertrand and Princess Grace, née Kelly. H.S.H. Prince Albert II succeeded his father, Prince Rainier III who died on 6h April 2005. On 12th July 2005, at the end of the period of official mourning, the Prince's accession to the throne was celebrated.
In April 2006, H.S.H. Prince Albert II visited the North Pole by dog sled from the Russian base of Barneo 120 kilometres away. This journey was the opportunity for him to pay tribute to his great-great grandfather, Prince Albert I of Monaco, a pioneer of modern oceanography, who, in 1906, set out to Spitzberg, in the archipelago of Svalbard, the most successful of his four Arctic exploration campaigns. In January 2009, Prince Albert II of Monaco undertook a three-week scientific journey in the Antarctic. He visited a large number of scientific stations and visited the South Pole in the company of the explorer Mike Horn.
In June 2006, H.S.H. the Prince set up the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation dedicated to protecting the environment. It encourages sustainable and fair management of natural resources and places man at the centre of its projects. It supports the implementation of innovative and ethical solutions in three broad areas: climate change, water and biodiversity.
HSH the Prince participated in five Olympic Games, from Calgary in 1988 to Salt Lake City in 2002, as a member of the national bobsleigh team. A member of the International Olympic Committee since 1985, He is President of the Monegasque Olympic Committee.
The Prince's complete biography can be found here: CLICK HERE
Michael LiebreichSo, Monseigneur, thank you very much for joining us here on Cleaning Up.
Prince Albert IIIt's a pleasure, thank you.
MLA great pleasure, particularly, to have another Olympian on the show. We had one before, who was Aksel Lund Svindal.
PAWho's a good friend of mine as well.
MLWhen I was introducing myself, it was always a bit embarrassing, because of course, he was rather more successful than me. But you went to five Olympics, is that correct?
PAThat is correct. I had the privilege of being a five-time Olympian. So, from 1988 to 2002. And it was an incredible experience, as you know. But to be just a part of this formidable event, and to live in the Olympic village, and to get that experience. And then to, on three out of the five occasions, I was the flag-bearer for Monaco; so, to carry your country's flag, and being with your teammates, and your whole delegation there, it's a very special moment. And so, I cherish these memories, but cherish the whole adventure of having a 16-year career as a bobsledder, on most of all the different tracks in the world. And just the friendships that I was able to foster during that period, are amazing and are, of course they're still - not quite the same as early childhood friends, but nevertheless - they're very strong friendships, and it's a very tight community. You know, most winter sports and these kinds of sports that only really exist, or have any recognition, during the Olympic Games, it tends to make that community very, very tight. So, it's always a pleasure when I get to meet up with old bobsleigh friends.
MLDo you remember each of the Olympics of the five? Because I was at Albertville, so 1992, when your track would have been in La Plagne. And it's one of the only tracks that I've actually bobsledded on. But do you remember each one separately?
PAOh, yeah, no, no, every Olympics has.... Of course, the first Olympics that you go to, that you participate in, is the most special, because you're discovering everything and it has more of an impact on you. So, Calgary has a very special place in my memory. But yes, I remember every race. Maybe not every run... But every one of those Olympics, those 16 days at the Winter Olympics that I was participating in, has a special place.
MLI think I can pretty much remember every... Well, I was only at one Olympics, so my first was also my last. That makes things easy, so I do remember the Olympic race. But you do tend to remember races, it's funny how they get kind of engraved. And we're recording this during Monaco's Ocean Week, so I'm particularly grateful, because it must be an incredibly busy time. Have you been heavily involved in it?
PAIt is a very busy week. There are several events every day, and then of course there are numerous side meetings, because there are a lot of different experts in different areas that are here; a lot of people that I've known for years; a lot of friends in ocean conservation and other areas. And we're able to pool - that's the beauty of this Ocean Week - we're not only able to pool like-minded people in ocean conservation, but you know, different scientists, different NGOs, different international organizations, but also the corporate world, and different representatives of different businesses that are interested in investing in different solutions to help our oceans. And so, it's really a coming together of different stakeholders and different people interested in... Well, not only learning more about the state of our global ocean, but willing to play a part. And so, that's why it was important to convene these people here, and we've been doing this for 14 years. It hasn't always been a complete week. The first event, which is the Monaco Blue Initiative, which is part of a forum for bringing together also political leaders; we had the President of Costa Rica this year. And his country, of course, is at the forefront of environmental conservation and initiatives. And then it developed over the past three or four years now - more than that - into a whole week of different events, not only at the Oceanographic Museum, but at the Yacht Club primarily, with great initiatives, and great innovative solutions. And I was yesterday also at a presentation of different yachts from very prestigious companies that are starting to think differently in terms of propulsion, and are proposing hydrogen and fuel cell technologies to equip their new and upcoming yachts. And so, that's a great step forward. We've been talking about this for a few years now, but to see it actually happen is extremely encouraging.
MLThere's definitely a huge amount on the move. I work across transportation, energy infrastructure, so I'm watching some of those initiatives. But there's one that really struck me, which was the launch of the fund. There's a - it's not yet been fully formalized, all the details of it - but it was very interesting to see the role of finance being really showcased at the Ocean Week.
PAAbsolutely. So, we have to go back also to last year's Monaco Ocean Week, where we launched the Ocean Innovators Platform, which was a convening of different investors, but not necessarily for a fund, but philanthropists, and people interested in helping to make a difference and to create networking and contacts between them. But this year, we decided that that was not enough, and philanthropy can only go so far. And so, that's why we launched, just a couple of days ago, the Re-Ocean Fund, which is going to be a fund, a capital equity fund, that will have an initial feed of €100 million. And, of course, it was a formal presentation of it, but we are very confident that, just gauging from the feedback that we got from that first presentation, that there is considerable interest in this. And so, it was a solution to get the financial world and different entrepreneurs and different investors interested in different projects that concern our ocean.
MLAnd it's a joint venture; we'll come on to talk about the Foundation, but it's a joint venture between your Foundation and a private asset manager?
PAYes, Monaco Asset Management, and they've been active in the Principality for years, and they have a known track record, and they are able to pool I think, substantial funds, and have the contacts for those investors that have expressed interest, so we're very excited about this.
MLI was very struck by the continuity of your family's commitment to the oceans, and that's something I'd like to explore a bit, because it is generational, is it not? I mean, it started with your - I believe it was your great, great grandfather - who was really quite a significant ocean scientist in his own right, was he not?
PANo, he was an incredible, incredible adventurer, first of all, and his love of the ocean and science, of all sciences... He had a curious mind in that, he had that instinct of being curious about everything and about different ways to explore the world, but always of course with a scientific intention. And so, although he wasn't scientifically trained himself, he loved to be surrounded by scientists. And so, he personally funded and equipped four different yachts that he owned over his lifetime, and supported different expeditions, not only here in the Mediterranean, but in the Atlantic, and the Arctic Ocean - some 28 different expeditions. And so, he was quite a navigator, and really kind of gathered a lot of very... And in those days, these were the early days of oceanography, and it was still a relatively young science. And to be able to galvanize that many people who accepted to join him on his different expeditions, really made a difference and helped develop that science quite significantly. So, he was a great visionary, and has left us an incredible legacy, not only with the Institute in Paris [Paris' House of the Oceans], but with the Oceanographic Museum [of Monaco], here, just a few blocks away.
MLIndeed, and my first exposure oceanography, frankly, would have been through the films of the great Jacques Cousteau, who was the director of...
PAHe was the Director of the museum for well over 30 years, and he launched a few of his expeditions right from here. And I remember going as a young teenager with my parents to see Jacques Cousteau and his team of the Calypso off on there... This was in the early 70s, and it was, I think, was a four-year expedition...
MLThis was his Voyage to the Edge of the World, I think it was billed as.
PAYes, I believe that that was the one. But he was an incredibly generous man. And that's my only regret, that I was never able to... Because I had high school and then college commitments, so I couldn't join him, but he had invited me to come join him at different points of that particular expedition, but also the ones after that. So, that's my only regret, that I was never able to join him.
MLI have to ask, did you get any sort of behind the scenes tours of the of the museum, the institute?
PAOh yeah. All the back of the house, back of the aquariums tour. Oh, yes, I did that many times. And when the scientific centre was in the museum, I was in there a few times as well. So, you know, it's really a very, very special place.
MLAnd so, did you always know that when you took office, that the oceans would be one of the major themes that you would be developing, building on that legacy?
PAYes, and that's why it was important to establish that we weren't going to substitute ourselves to the museum and to its missions, but rather be complementary, and work with them on those issues. But also, I was very intent on not only dealing with ocean issues, but with other very pressing issues: climate change, of course, but not only; forests, and deforestation; water issues; and the general concern on biodiversity, be it on land or at sea. And so, that's why we were able to get the foundation involved in so many different projects: protecting different species, but also different scientific projects, biodiversity inventories, both on land and at sea. And so, it's really much more than just the oceans. Although, we wanted also to help prove that the that the oceans are absolutely of vital importance to - not only to the overall balance of the world - but to our own survival on this planet as well.
MLLet's come back in a minute to the Foundation, the work of the Foundation, which is broader than just oceans, but I'm struck by this image of the sort of 17-year-old you, waving goodbye to Jacques Cousteau. And then you later went on your own expeditions, and quite significant expeditions. You've described yourself as the bi-polar Prince, you've been to both poles. In 2005 you went to the North Pole, and you actually stood in the same place as your great-great-grandfather and took some photographs. Can you talk about that?
PAAbsolutely. So, this was in the summer of 2005, and there was an opportunity to go with a small scientific team from the Monaco Science Centre, from the museum, to do the same route around Spitsbergen, and the Svalbard archipelago, and that was a really very interesting and quite thrilling trip. And yes, we did stop in most of the bays, and saw the places that he was able to name. But in one bay, the Lilliehook Glacier Bay, he took, personally, Prince Albert I, took one of the most significant, I think, pictures - there are others, taken by other explorers, of course, but - of that glacier, that's at the end of that bay. And to see it, just a very simple comparison - and we tried to stand in the same place where he actually took that picture. And to see the way that glacier has receded some five to six kilometres was actually pretty daunting and pretty scary. And I was able to go back this past June with the Oceanographic Museum, [they] organized a cruise, on a cruise ship, that is also scientifically-equipped, the Commandant Charcot, [inaudible] and this was a commemorative cruise for the 100th year, since Prince Albert I actually left us. And so, we were able to go back to Lilliehook glacier, and it has receded even more substantially than sixteen years ago. And so... This can only reinforce my conviction, and our conviction, that those who - at the Foundation and those who were around me at that time - that we need to... With this understanding of what is happening in these extraordinarily fragile, and important parts of the world, like both polar regions, that we need to do more to try to protect them better and to minimize our impact.
MLSo, the 2005 trip, was that kind of a climate awakening? Because I had a similar experience with glaciers in Switzerland. I was doing some cross-country near to Pontresina, St. Moritz,
PAI know it well.
MLThere's a valley there where they've marked which year the glacier came down to which point, and it is kilometres that it has receded in the last 100 years. So for me, that was an awakening. Was that your experience?
PAYes, that, and the dog-sled trip to the North Pole, which was the following April, where, you know, we were on the ice cap and seeing the varying degrees of thickness of that ice cap, as you approach the Pole, the actual North Pole. And we had one guy in our expedition, one member, who fell in the water, and who, fortunately, caught himself in time, and so there wasn't too much damage. He had to change clothes, of course, because they were a little wet... But that was an indication, also, that things were changing rapidly, and this was in April 2006. And right now, I'm not sure, because the conditions, as I've been told by other observers are even worse. And I don't think that expedition with dog-sleds could be possible anymore, even in the early part of spring, because the ice thickness simply isn't there. And the changing weather conditions...
MLThere are routes in the Alps that I've climbed, which can no longer be climbed, because the permafrost has melted and is now too dangerous. So, in 2009 you went into Antarctica, and you visited science outposts. But I want to move forward to 2018: you did something really interesting, you went to the Torres Straits, and you met up with Alick Tipoti, and that resulted in a film, and a real sort of meeting of minds, an emotional meeting of minds, with this Girringun artist?
PAWell, Alick Tipoti and other Aboriginal artists were in Monaco a few years before that, because we had this big exhibition at the Oceanographic Museum on Aboriginal art. And this was, of course, sponsored by the Australian Government, and so there were really some outstanding artists, and we did a whole exhibition not only of their work, but also a photographic exhibition of where they lived, and what are the conditions in different parts of Australia. And we had a wonderful contact, and so he then invited me to come and visit him and his community. And it was really a wonderful trip, and at that time, I didn't think that we were going to actually do a documentary, but he asked if the camera crew could follow us, and I said yes, and so, it turned out to be a really a wonderful moment, and great conversations on what their living conditions were and what was affecting them. And, of course, the seasonal differences are much more marked now than they ever used to be; and the rising temperatures; and the degradation of sea life; and the problems with ocean acidification also, in that part of the world, are pretty significant; the bleaching of corals, of course, and other impactful elements that can be visible, and that they can feel. And so, it was really very moving to see their relationship to their natural surroundings are and how connected they are to their natural world, and their natural surroundings. And in our western countries, we've lost a lot of that connection. And so, that's also what we are trying to do at the Foundation, is to have people understand, have a better awareness and a better understanding of how these natural mechanisms work, what is affecting them, and how we can be better members of the natural world, because we do belong to the natural world.
MLSo, that was the documentary Alick and Albert. One question that I have is: as you talked to Alick, as you talk to the other Girringuns that you met, was there any anger towards the west, the wealthier societies? I was just very struck by their vulnerability - quite modest means, poor societies down there. And then obviously, coming up to Monaco, which is almost an epitome, epitomizes wealth. Was there any anger? Because climate change is not caused by the Girringuns; it's caused by people who live, these, our, lifestyles?
PANo, I didn't feel any anger. I felt frustration, and not necessarily understanding why this is happening. I mean, they do know why, but they don't want to blame anybody; it's just unfortunate that it's happening. But they're, of course, urging us and other countries around the world to do their part, lessening our, and diminishing our greenhouse gas emissions, and to lead more sustainable lives, and we absolutely have to do that. We absolutely have to move in a fairly significant and fairly rapid way towards a decarbonized economy. It's going to take a while, it's going to take a lot of funds, and it's going to take a lot of commitment on the part of civil society, on different industries, and also on political leadership. But we absolutely have to move; we have no other choice but to live slightly differently. That doesn't mean that we have to completely abandon all our commodities and what makes life comfortable. But we have to live, and feed ourselves, and heat ourselves or cool ourselves, and use transportation, in a different way.
MLNow you've got your Foundation, it's been 17 years now, as a platform to address these - I suspect it's more and more about climate issues during that period, but - it's these and other issues. How does the foundation work? What's the modus operandi? What's your sort of theory of affecting those changes through the Foundation?
PAWell, quite simply, it was responding to urgencies that I saw, and that everyone who joined me at the Foundation's inception... that we needed to do something more than what the government of Monaco was already doing, but couldn't address; other issues in other countries that we had a bilateral relation with. And so, that's why the Foundation first started, just funding different projects that were presented by third parties, by other organizations, other NGOs, but we weren't the initiators of the projects. And it took a certain amount of time for us to fully get organized, and get the expertise and get the contacts and the partnerships, to then initiate our own programs and our own projects on the ground, but also different awareness projects, through different media. And so, pretty early on... We try to address every issue, and that's why in the Foundation's mission statement, it's to combat the effects of climate change, to encourage clean energies, to address water issues and access to water, and then biodiversity, as I said before, be it on land or at sea, the protection of different species and encouraging protected areas. We're thinking, of course, primarily of marine protected areas, but also on land. And so, that's why we were able to - thanks to all our partnerships, and everyone who has helped the Foundation and a wonderful team at the Foundation - we were able to be involved in some 750 projects, on all continents, and raise well over €100 million for these different projects. And so, our target areas are the Mediterranean, the Mediterranean basin, if you like, because we are a Mediterranean country, but because there are also urgencies in and around the Mediterranean area. And then both Polar regions, and then least developed countries, of course. And so, I'm extremely proud and happy how the Foundation has developed over the years, and how it is recognized as a serious entity, and as someone that can be counted on, as someone reliable, a reliable entity that is only interested in advancing these solutions for our planet and being good partners with existing... Of course, most of the other organizations that we work with have been around for a long time, and we didn't have much to teach them. But we want to be alongside them, because we all have to work together. No one can act independently in their own boxes, or in their own silos. It's multi-disciplinary, of course, but it's by working together that we will achieve the results that we are hoping for.
MLTremendous - and I ask your forgiveness, because I'm a maths geek - so, I'm dividing €100 million by 750 projects.
PAYou had time to do that, with my long answer, so.
MLDon't worry, I was also concentrating on the answer! But I did do the math, and it comes out to about €120,000 per project. So, I'm just very struck by the granularity of that. Because, you know, it's quite hard... A lot of charities, a lot of NGOs, find it hard to get funds down to those, frankly, smaller, but really on-the-ground, important projects. But that appears to be what you're doing, through partners, presumably?
PAAbsolutely, and none of our projects would be possible without the help of partners, and that became very clear right from the beginning. And of course, even if there are projects that we initiate ourselves, we will we always find the right partners, because also, we don't have the staff; we don't have the knowledge on the ground in some of these areas, in some of these places around the world. Even the seemingly unimportant projects that don't require a lot of funds, some of them have been the most successful. And they were absolutely of vital importance to the communities that were around these projects, or that lived in the area of these projects. And so, it was actually very, not only heartwarming, but it was also part of the social responsibility that is absolutely paramount in in these projects.
MLSo, I know, this is a difficult question, because you will want to be very diplomatic. But I'm going to ask you if you have any favourites? Or some examples of the sorts of projects - to really bring it to life - that you've supported through the foundation over the last couple of years.
PAWell, maybe to go even further back than that, I think what we were able to do with other entities like the World Wildlife Fund, and other entities, was to make an effort, to spearhead an effort, to try to save the population of bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean and the adjacent Atlantic area. And the hope was to put it on the endangered species list; that was not possible, but thanks to the collective efforts of all of us - of all the entities involved, and all the countries involved - we were able to force the organizations in charge of that to lower their quotas of fishing, the official quotas; we still know, unfortunately, that there's a lot of illegal and unreported fishing going on. But the strengthening of those quotas was enough to save the species and to have the population rebound. It took a few years, but those stricter quotas were absolutely paramount in helping the Mediterranean bluefin tuna survive. And so, I could name a lot of other projects that were very successful, but I think that was the one that is still in people's minds and was significant enough to help us grow as a Foundation.
MLSo, that was a clear win. But you're doing some very interesting stuff on plastics at the moment; that's become a kind of main theme, has it not?
PAAbsolutely. And it's a worldwide problem as you know, and a hugely complex issue. And we are looking at different ways - of course, through different entities - to limit the use of plastics, and to propose alternatives. But - and this goes back to the Mediterranean area - the BeMed initiative, Beyond Plastic Mediterranean, which is a pooling together of different organizations to help not only with the clean-up projects, but to propose different local projects that can make a difference in not only lessening the impact of plastic waste, but to find solutions also to recycle it, or to reuse it in different ways. And so, it's just for Mediterranean countries, but it has proven its worth, and just seeing the number of initiatives in different countries around the Mediterranean is extremely encouraging.
MLOne of your other expeditions, which we didn't talk about earlier, was to go 5000 metres down and you saw plastic at depth?
PAYes, this was on the invitation of Victor Vescovo, who's a well-known explorer, and he's been able to dive with his own sub that his company has built, and he's been in the deepest part of every ocean around the world. And so, he invited me to dive in the Calypso trench, which is off of Kalamata Greece, and this was February of 2020, this was just before COVID, just before the lockdown. But it was an incredible experience, and it is true that the only things we saw... we saw one deep sea shrimp that was kind of floating by and the only thing we actually saw on the bottom was sheets of plastic and bottles. And Victor Vescovo told me that he saw the same thing at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. So, that is only proof, if need be, that we are facing an immense problem, and that we have to absolutely work on it.
MLIt's a sobering and a terrible story, but I have to say I also love the way you've blended your own exploration, adventuring, with then bringing that experience back and doing something about it. And we have I think a mutual friend, it's fair to, Bertrand Picard, who was one of the early guests, and he talked about a good and interesting life; it has to be good and interesting.
PANow, he's an incredible person and a great friend, and I admire his different adventures around the world. Of course, not only the Breitling Orbiter, but a special thought about his Solar Impulse project, and we were very honoured to be the control centre here in Monaco, to host the control center. And so, I was part of that whole adventure very, very closely. And it was really a breakthrough in aviation. But also, his foundation for 1000 Solutions is an incredible initiative, and he's been able to pool and bring together different initiatives, and different companies that do propose solutions that work; they just need to be scaled up and of course, need funding. But it's an incredible achievement to have brought together so many different, great initiatives.
MLAnd I'm honoured to say that I'm actually on the advisory board of the Solar Impulse 1000 Solutions. I want to finish, if I might, just looking at Monaco itself: because you have a 2050 decarbonisation target; it’s not the easiest of territories, in terms of, you don't have a huge land area to do solar panels... How is that going? How important is it? How is it going?
PAWell, it's vitally important. For me, I made that commitment on behalf of the Principality at the time of the COP in Paris, COP21, where we all had to make commitments And I'm happy to say that we are on target; we have passed the 38%, or almost 39%, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. There's still a long way, and there's only seven years, or less now, toward 2030. But I'm confident that we will reach those targets.
MLDo you have concerns about... Some of your, many of your subjects, would have properties outside the Principality; they fly to New York, they fly to Miami. And so, their footprint is only to a small extent going to be here in the Principality. Do you think they're fully on board in their whole lives with those targets? Or are they saying, right, well, we'll go along with it here, but don't expect us to stop flying or really make any deep changes?
PAIf you'd asked me that a few years ago, I would have said, yes, it is a problem, and we will try to address that. I think by showing them what we're doing, and by raising a significant amount of awareness, people do realize that they don't need to travel as much. And I think also, the COVID pandemic has taught us that to; we were able to do a lot of a lot of Zoom meetings and a lot of video conference meetings and we didn't necessarily all need to be in the same place at the same time. Of course, it is better to have a face-to-face meeting, and some have to be done that way. But it's also leisure travel that needs to be thought of differently. But there are different compensation mechanisms now that work very well, and that people have taken into consideration and have adhered to. And so, I hope that that trend will continue and it must continue. And so, as I said, it's not necessarily a drastic change in lifestyle, it's just, by small increments, doing what we all can to lessen our impact and lessen our carbon footprint.
MLAnd your Foundation is so focused on the influence that it can have around the world, and so your Monegasques, your subjects, could also have a huge impact, I think.
PAI hope so.
MLNow, I have just realized that your tie is a Shuttlecock tie, if I'm not wrong? Is that correct?
PANo, it is the emblem of the Foundation.
MLI thought it was from the Cresta Run Shuttlecock.
PAI do own a Shuttlecock tie.
MLAs do I, as do I. Well, excellent to meet fellow members of the... For our audience, I should explain: it's for those people who've flown out of the Cresta Run on Shuttlecock Corner, you get this special tie for surviving one of the more traumatic experiences that you can have on ice.
PAMine was okay. I realized I was going off the edge, so I let go of my sled and I did a wonderful dive into the hay bales, and so there was no harm done.
MLI hope there was film of that. I did the same and there was no film.
PAThis was in the late 80s, so I don't think there's any footage of that, thank God.
MLWhat a shame. It's been a huge pleasure, thank you so much for your time today. I wish you luck with the Foundation, with all of your endeavours, and with the journey of Monaco to net-zero. And thank you again for your time.
PAAppreciate it. Thank you.