Prince William "Doubles Down" on His Commitment to Fighting Climate Change

The memory of Queen Elizabeth loomed large at the inaugural Earthshot Prize Innovation Summit. Prince William had been expected to attend the day of speakers and panels focused on climate solutions, and it would have served as something of a prequel to his trip to Boston for the Earthshot Prize Awards ceremony later this year. But after the unexpected death of his grandmother, William had to cancel.

“Although it is the saddest of circumstances that means I cannot join you in person today, I am pleased to be able to join you in video form as you gather in New York for the Earthshot Prize Innovation Summit,” he said via video, welcoming guests and participants ranging from Michael Bloomberg and Queen Rania of Jordan to Matt Damon and Bill Gates in his first official speech as the Prince of Wales.

“During this time of grief, I take great comfort in your continued enthusiasm, optimism, and commitment to the Earthshot Prize and what we are trying to achieve. Protecting the environment was a cause close to my grandmother’s heart, and I know she would have been delighted to hear about this event and the support you are all giving our Earthshot Finalists—the next generation of environmental pioneers.”

In his stead, the Prince asked New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to speak, and she too began by reflecting on the late British monarch. “She is someone who was focused, committed, and demonstrated what could be achieved when you show fortitude and longevity,” Ardern said of Elizabeth II. “We need all those same characteristics to take on the environmental challenges ahead of us.”

Photo credit: Monica Schipper - Getty Images
Photo credit: Monica Schipper - Getty Images

Prince William launched Earthshot in 2020 with the goal of funding solutions and supporting innovation that will repair our planet, an ambition inspired by President John F. Kennedy’s famous 1961 “moonshot” speech, in which he proclaimed that the U.S. would land a man on the moon within the decade.

“At the time, no one was sure it was possible,” Ambassador Caroline Kennedy, who was also in attendance at the Earthshot Prize Summit, shared. “But my father believed in the power of the idea, and over time the vision, the purpose, the courage it embodied has inspired each generation to take on its own challenges, not because they're easy, but because they're hard.”

Photo credit: Monica Schipper - Getty Images
Photo credit: Monica Schipper - Getty Images

Prince William and his wife Catherine will join Kennedy in Boston on December 2, to celebrate the Earthshot Prize Awards, in which five winners (one in each category: protect & restore nature, clean our air, revive our oceans, build a waste-free world, and fix our climate) will receive £1 million in prize money as well as support to scale their environmental solution. This year’s ceremony is being put on in partnership with the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation as well as Boston’s mayor, Michelle Wu.

“President Kennedy understood that the effort to land on the moon would bring out the best in us, that everyone would have to contribute, that it would require innovation, creativity, teamwork, commitment and faith, and the world would be better because of it. The Earthshot Prize has inspired the same spirit of optimism and ingenuity on a global scale to tackle the most pressing challenge we now face, repairing the planet,” Ambassador Kennedy said. “My family and I are so excited that the Prince of Wales will honor this year's Earthshot Prize winners in partnership with the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, a city that is committed to scientific excellence, environmental justice and the fight against climate change. We're proud that President Kennedy's moonshot legacy still inspires hope, and we look forward to welcoming all of you who are working to ensure a better future here on Earth.”

In the few short weeks since Prince William and Kate’s trip to Boston was officially announced, much has changed for the royal family. Not only have they lost their matriarch, but King Charles succeeded her, signaling the end of one era and the start of another.

“It’s been a terribly hard few weeks for the royal family and for the whole nation,” Earthshot CEO Hannah Jones told Town & Country.

“We're in a period of mourning, and deep grief,” she said, “but I have to say what becomes very clear is that Her Majesty the Queen had such a steadfast determination, and a sense of service, and a sense also of support for the incredible environmental work that the Duke of Edinburgh did and launched, that King Charles has done and does, and now Prince William. Prince William is our founder. He is also our President and he is the driving engine behind so much of what we do.”

Photo credit: Chris Jackson - Getty Images
Photo credit: Chris Jackson - Getty Images

The newly named Prince of Wales is only beginning to make the title his own. But, like his father and predecessor, Prince William remains committed to using his platform to spotlight the climate concerns facing our planet.

“His role continues to be what it has always been, which is as an advocate for the environment for generations ahead. The royal family thinks multiple generations ahead, which in a world of short-termism is a refreshing and incredibly important space to occupy,” Jones told T&C. “I think, if anything, his commitment doubles down.”

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