Prince William launches £50m prize fund to repair the planet

Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·5 mins read
KHYBER PAKHUNKWA, PAKISTAN - OCTOBER 16: Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge visit the Chiatibo glacier in the Hindu Kush mountain range on October 16, 2019 in the Chitral District of Khyber-Pakhunkwa Province, Pakistan. They spoke with a an expert about how climate change is impacting glacial landscapes. The Cambridge's are engaging in a royal tour of Pakistan from 14th -18th October.(Photo by Neil Hall - Pool/Getty Images)
William and Kate in the Hindu Kush mountains in Pakistan during a royal tour. (Getty Images)

Prince William is spearheading a £50million Nobel-style competition to support projects which he hopes will solve some of the world’s biggest environmental problems.

William, 38, launched the Earthshot Prize on New Year’s Eve and has now unveiled more details about how the prize aims to help repair the planet.

Five £1m prizes will be awarded each year for 10 years, covering the areas of protecting and restoring nature, cleaning the air, reviving the oceans, building a waste-free world and fixing the climate.

The prize takes inspiration from President John F Kennedy’s ‘Moonshot’, which brought Americans together around the idea of putting a man on the moon.

To mark the launch, five Earthshot films will be released and feature narrators including Bindi and Robert Irwin, the children of the late conservationist and TV personality Steve Irwin.

There will also be a film released to announce the environmental, philanthropic, business and sporting names who are on the council. They will be the ones who will decide who gets a grant.

During the film, Prince William will say: “The plan is to really galvanise and bring together the best minds, the best possible solutions, to fixing and tackling some of the world’s greatest environmental challenges.

“We’ve got to harness our ingenuity and our ability to invent. The next 10 years are a critical decade for change.

“Time is of the essence, which is why we believe that this very ambitious global prize is the only way forward.”

William has spent two years working on this project, and it will likely draw comparisons with his father’s Prince’s Trust, and his grandfather’s Duke of Edinburgh award.

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An interview between Prince William and Sir David Attenborough will also be played on the Today programme on Radio 4.

During it he will say: “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. 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.

“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.”

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The money is being provided by the prize’s partners which includes The Paul G Allen Family Foundation created by the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and his sister. The Jack Ma Foundation, the charitable body of the founder of the Chinese online retail giant Alibaba, has also donated.

Nominations for the first five prizes open on 1 November, with the first grants being awarded in a ceremony in London in autumn 2021. The entries will be whittled down to 15 finalists before the ceremony.

Prince William is hopeful that the winners will have a global platform and be able to see their ideas replicated and adopted widely.

The competition will be open to individuals, businesses, groups of scientists or activists, or even a city or country.

Every year, Ipsos Mori will carry out a poll to see how optimistic the public feels about humanity’s ability to tackle the global issues.

The Duke of Cambridge picks up rubbish washed up on the beach during his visit to Kuwait City's wetlands at the Jahra Nature Reserve to learn more about Kuwait's ambitious plans to protect its natural environment from human and environmental challenges. as part of his tour of Kuwait and Oman. PA Photo. Picture date: Monday December 2, 2019. See PA story ROYAL Tour. Photo credit should read: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire
The Duke of Cambridge picks up rubbish washed up on the beach during his visit to Kuwait City's wetlands. (PA)

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The duke is also to appear in an environmental TV series on the BBC before the first ceremony.

The five-part series, which has the working title Earthshot: How To Save Our Planet will feature the father-of-three alongside scientists, wildlife experts and environmentalists.

It will be made by Silverback Films, who also made Elephant, which was narrated by Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex.

Jason Knauf, chief executive of The Royal Foundation, said: “The stories of the winners and finalists of the Earthshot Prize will have the power to inspire the world.

“We are grateful that the BBC and Silverback Films will take these stories to a global audience and help make this the decade in which we repair our planet.”

William’s environmental credentials have increased in the last few years, and on Monday evening, his documentary Prince William: A Planet for Us All charted his efforts to protect nature.

His father and his grandfather, Prince Charles, and Prince Philip, have also been considered ahead of their time for their warnings about the environment. Charles made his first speech about single use plastic more than 50 years ago.

William’s friendship with Sir David, who he consulted on the Earthshot Prize, also continues decades of a royal link with the naturalist.

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