Longtime environmental activist Prince Albert of Monaco believes President-elect Joe Biden is on the right path.
Four years after denouncing President Donald Trump as "dangerous" on climate change, the prince, 62, believes the skepticism of climate science which marked Trump's term in office has ultimately been contained and the damage is "reparable."
Calling the Biden-Harris election, with its priority on climate issues, "an incredibly positive" sign, Albert hopes "that all these procedures slowing down the transition will be behind us very soon."
"The election shows great new hope for the future," Albert tells PEOPLE, noting he sent a congratulatory letter to President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris on Nov. 9. "They've already made a great start on important issues. Especially with what's already been said about climate change and with John Kerry's appointment as a special [envoy] on climate issues."
"I'm looking forward to working with "my good friend," he says of Kerry, 76. "And the other appointments that have been made seem to be experienced, committed people. There's a sense these are people open to dialogue."
"It was quite a shock that the U.S. and its then-president were willing to pull out of the Paris Agreement," he says, returning to the subject of Trump.
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As one of the rare world leaders who spoke out both before and after Trump's election, Albert warned of what he called Trump's lack of scientific and environmental understanding. In October 2016, he told PEOPLE that Trump's dismissal of climate science was “dangerous” for the entire planet.
Months later, when Trump became president and hosted a White House Rose Garden ceremony to celebrate unilateral American withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, the prince denounced its 'historic mistake," saying the "the decision was too momentous … to make without doing your homework."
Now, Albert believes "Trump's damage is reparable because it took so much time for the U.S. to fully get out of the accord," he says. "Because of the different processes, he couldn't pull out immediately. Frankly, it took most of Trump's presidency to withdraw effectively." Biden has vowed to rejoin the agreement.
Any damage was also "minimized because so many private initiatives in the States started and are continuing on the city, county or state-levels," Albert adds. "Because of these, the situation is not as catastrophic as it could have been."
Looking ahead to Biden's turn in office, Albert says he believes that "with new leadership focused on achieving those goals, using the best practices, bringing technical and technological solutions to approach these problems, I think it shows a way forward especially for other countries which are struggling to meet targets."
In response to Albert's criticism of the president, White House spokesman Judd Deere told PEOPLE that Trump has made real environmental achievements.
“Instead of recognizing the incredible strides President Trump has made over the last four years to ensure the United States has some of the cleanest air and water in the world, some choose to live in their own made-up reality," Deere said in a statement. "While countries around the world and Democrats here at home are obsessed with burdensome regulatory policies and the Paris Climate Accords that shackles economy’s and discourages growth, President Trump’s bold policies have lowered carbon emissions more than any country that remained in that one-sided agreement and laid a firm foundation for a ‘Super V’ recovery that will last for generations. President Trump has proven that you don’t have to choose environmental policy over economic policy or vice versa, but you can choose both for the growth and prosperity of all Americans.”
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