The £50 million Earthshot Prize is offering awards each year for ten years in a decade which has been described by scientists as “the most pressing challenge of our times”.
Royal aides close to the Duke of Cambridge warn the planet is reaching a "number of tipping points" from which there is no way back to repair the damage.
Prince William said he believes offering a prize is a good way to bring about change because "you’re rewarding, you’re incentivising and you’re encouraging"
Earthshot takes its name from the President Kennedy’s ambitious Moonshot challenge in the 1960s to put a man on the moon by the end of that decade.
William wants Earthshot to be compared in prestige to the Nobel Prize over the course of the next decade.
The Prince said: "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."
He has brought together what’s being called the "biggest coalition of leaders" around the world in order to reach every community in every corner of the planet.
"Urgency is a key part of the challenge" says a royal source who added the annual prizes will be awarded to those in any part of the world who can show how to "end the destruction of nature, eliminate poaching or plant billions of trees".
The Duke has been consulting his father Prince Charles, who has been a passionate supporter of the environment for the last 50 years.
William’s grandfather Prince Philip, who has also campaigned on conservation issues for decades, is supportive of his grandson’s ambitious project which he has been working on for the last two years.
It's also understood the Queen is being lined up to support her grandson’s initiative in the coming months.
There is a "long family tradition" on this issue, said a royal aide.
"Our power to innovate and cooperate can save the planet" said Jason Knauf from the Royal Foundation, William and Kate’s charitable body which gets new projects off the ground.
It's understood William's determination to set up a scheme on this scale was cemented during a visited to Africa in 2018 when the effects of climate change on natural habitats and the enormity of the poaching problem really hit home.
He immediately began discussions with the broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough - who will now be one of those who will sit on the Earthshot Prize Council.
Prince William reveals that he and Prince George became so sad while watching a Sir David Attenborough documentary on extinction they could not finish watching it
A dozen other global names will also be revealed later today.
There will be five prizes of one million pounds given each year between now and 2030.
The five "earthshots" are to protect and restore nature, clean out air, revive our oceans, build a waste-free world and fix our climate.
The one million pound annual prize in each category can be awarded to individuals, groups or collaborations of people or companies.
Prince William said: "We’ve got to harness our ingenuity and our ability to invent. The next ten 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," he added.