For decades, Prince Charles has prominently campaigned to help protect the environment. And now his son and heir Prince William has launched an ambitious £50 million prize to provide “solutions to the world’s greatest environmental problems” over the next 10 years.
The Earthshot Prize—which has been dubbed by some as the Nobel Prize for the environment—is today unveiled by the Duke of Cambridge. Those familiar with the project have shared how the Prince has been heavily involved in setting it up over the last two years, particularly in recent months, and that it will see a big personal commitment from him for the next decade. Describing William’s growing confidence and his motivation for the project, one source said the Prince has “clearly realised” that “he has a global leadership role to play and now is the time to play it.”
The Earthshot Prize will see five £1 million prizes awarded each year from 2021 to 2030, aiming to find 50 solutions to the world’s challenges. Kensington Palace described how the winners could be “a wide range of individuals, teams or collaborations—scientists, activists, economists, community projects, leaders, governments, banks, businesses, cities, and countries.” Taking inspiration from John F. Kennedy’s Moonshot speech, in which the former U.S. President galvanized efforts to put a man on the moon, organizers hope that this new prize will turn “current pessimism surrounding environmental issues into optimism.”
“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,” William said in an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, broadcast today.
“And I think that urgency with optimism really creates action. And 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.”
The prize is centered around five universal goals, described as Earthshots; protect and restore nature, clean our air, revive our oceans, build a waste-free world, and fix our climate. Each year from 2021 to 2030 Prince William and a specially-appointed Earthshot Prize Council will award a £1 million prize to five winners, one for each goal. The prize is supported by a Global Alliance of businesses, philanthropists, organizations and charities. The first awards will take place in London in Autumn 2021.
Describing climate change as “the most pressing challenge of our time,” CEO of the Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Jason Knauf, said: “This isn’t theory any more. We can see the fires burning, we can see and measure the melting of the ice caps, we can count on one hand in some cases the surviving number of the world’s most iconic species.” He continued: “The Duke took this as an opportunity to ask what he could do to turn this equation around. He wanted to to keep the sense of urgency but turn the pessimism into optimism and hope and belief that will lead to real action.”
Kensington Palace has outlined that each winner "will receive a global platform and prestigious profile, with their stories being showcased over the decade and the ambition that their solutions lead to mass adoption, replication and scaling." It added that the prize money will support environmental and conservation projects that are agreed upon by both the winners and the Council.
The Earthshot Prize is being directed by Amy Pickerel, who was once the Duchess of Sussex's Assistant Private Secretary. The prize council will be announced later today. Nominations open on November 1, with entrants selected by nominating partners. While nothing has been specifically announced yet, it is expected that William will carry out public appearances throughout the year related the prize and that other working royal family members will show their support for the initiative.
Prince William recently featured in ITV documentary A Planet for Us All where he said about the environment: “My grandfather, my father, have been in the conservation, the environmental work for many years. My grandfather was well ahead of his time. My father was ahead of his time. And I really want to make sure that, in twenty years, George doesn’t turn around and say, are you ahead of your time? Because if he does, we’re too late.”
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