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Prince William climate announcement

Duke of Cambridge launches £50m Nobel-inspired climate prize

Image credit: Kate Middleton/PA

Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, has launched a £50m prize – the Earthshot Prize – which aims to fund solutions for managing serious environmental challenges over the next decade.

The Earthshot Prize will award five £1m prizes each year over the next decade. Prizes will be awarded in five categories: protecting and restoring nature, including saving species from extinction; tackling air pollution such that everyone in the world breathes clean air; reviving oceans and ensuring that they can be used sustainably; reducing waste by ensuring that “the leftovers of one process become the raw materials of the next”; and managing climate change by building a carbon-neutral economy. Each “Earthshot” is underpinned by scientifically agreed targets, including the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Individuals, groups of scientists or activists, businesses, governments, or even cities or countries may submit their proposals.

Winners will be announced every year from 2021 until the end of the decade. They will be selected by a star-studded judging panel: the Earthshot Prize Council. The panel includes Prince William, broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough, former UN climate chief Cristiana Figueres, environmental activist Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, economist Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, astronaut Naoko Yamasaki, Queen Rania of Jordan, Alibaba founder Jack Ma, athletes Dani Alves and Yao Ming, and entertainers Shakira and Cate Blanchett. The panel will be supported by scientific advisers.

Prize money is to be provided by an alliance of founding partners, including the Paul G Allen Family Foundation and the Jack Ma Foundation.

The prize is the latest effort in the royal family’s recent history of environmental advocacy; William’s father Prince Charles has spoken for decades about sustainability, conservation and climate change and launched several sustainability initiatives. Now, Prince William has spoken about feeling that “we are at a tipping point” and that he has a responsibility to leave the world in a better condition for the sake of his children and grandchildren.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the Duke of Cambridge admitted that he had regularly wondered “what [his] father’s banging on about” in his youth: “He’s talked about this for a long time and long before people sort of cottoned on to climate change. So, I’ve always listened to and learnt and believed in what he was saying. I think the dotty person now would be the person who doesn’t believe in climate change,” he said.

“This is a generational baton-handing; my grandfather started it, my father has picked it up and really accelerated that and I feel right now that it’s my responsibility, I really feel that we are at a tipping point,” Prince William told the BBC.

Prince William has been working on the Earthshot project for two years with his Royal Foundation. According to Kensington Palace, the prize is partly inspired by US President John F Kennedy’s Moonshot project, which has become synonymous with highly ambitious and exploratory technological goals.

“I felt very much that there’s a lot of people wanting to do many good things for the environment and what they need is a bit of a catalyst, a bit of hope, a bit of positivity that we can actually fix what’s being presented. And I think that urgency with optimism really creates action,” Prince William said. “So the Earthshot Prize is really about harnessing that optimism and that urgency to find solutions to some of the world’s greatest environmental problems.”

“We believe that this decade is one of the most crucial decades for the environment and by 2030 we really hope to have made huge strides in fixing some of the biggest problems the Earth faces.”

Speaking alongside Prince William on BBC Radio 4, naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough commented that even proposals which “may sound crackpot” would be welcomed, as long as they had the potential to make a difference.

James Robottom, IET Sustainability and Climate Change Lead, commented: “The IET welcomes the announcement of the Earthshot Prize. It is encouraging to see such prominent and well-respected individuals actively trying to inspire the development of new technology and solutions to tackle climate change.”

“Most of these challenges are significant, long-term, and require unprecedented collaborative action. Engineering is central to delivering them and we hope that together, in time, we can achieve a more sustainable planet that benefits us all,” he added.

Nominations open on 1 November. The first awards ceremony will be held in London in autumn 2021, with subsequent ceremonies in different cities each year. The winners will receive a global platform and prestigious profile in an effort to inspire the public and encourage the mass adoption of their solutions. Shortlisted nominees will also receive support and opportunities to scale up their work, including joining a network of other individuals and organisations working towards similar goals.

Every year, an Ipsos Mori poll will be conducted to measure levels of optimism about humanity’s ability to solve major challenges, in order to gauge the project’s success in inspiring the public to take positive action for the environment.

A series of short films will be release to coincide with the launch of Earthshot, inspired by the five Earthshot categories and narrated by young environmental activists such as Bindi Irwin.

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