William launches Earthshot Prize to inspire solutions for environmental problems

Duke of Cambridge Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

The Duke of Cambridge has launched an ambitious Nobel-style environmental competition – with a £50 million prize fund – to recognise ideas and technologies that can safeguard the planet.

William said “urgency with optimism really creates action” and his landmark prize was about “harnessing that optimism and that urgency to find solutions to some of the world’s greatest environmental problems”.

The project is likely to be seen as the duke’s career-defining project, like his father’s Prince’s Trust or grandfather’s Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme, and reflects his growing confidence and aim to play a global leadership role on the issue.

Every year from 2021 until the end of the decade, winners in five categories will each receive £1 million after being picked by a judging panel of William and leading figures, to be announced later, from the worlds of sport, the environment, entertainment, business and philanthropy.

In an interview alongside Sir David Attenborough, which will be broadcast later on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, William 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.”

The £50 million prize fund will be provided by the project’s global alliance founding partners – a group which includes the philanthropic bodies of billionaires.

The Paul G Allen Family Foundation created by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who died in 2018, and his sister Jody Allen have contributed, as has the Jack Ma Foundation, the charitable body of the founder of the Chinese online retail giant Alibaba.

William and Kate learned about the effects of climate change while visiting the Chiatibo glacier in the Hindu Kush mountain range Credit: Neil Hall/PA

The Earthshot Prize takes its inspiration from the Apollo moon landings, nicknamed Moonshot, which helped advance mankind’s technological achievements, and features five Earthshots which organisers say if achieved by 2030 would improve life for all.

Each has £1 million in prize money which will support environmental and conservation projects agreed with the winners, who could be individuals, a group of scientists or activists, businesses, governments and even a city or country.

They will be recognised for new ideas, technologies, policies or solutions which tackle one of the five Earthshots: Protect and restore nature, Clean our air, Revive our oceans, Build a waste-free world, and Fix our climate.

Every year an Ipsos Mori poll will be conducted to measure how optimistic people feel about humanity’s ability to solve the big issues, an attempt to gauge one of the project’s aims – inspiring the public to take positive environmental action.

The duke in Tanzania, it was during this trip to Africa he began to formulate his idea for an environmental prize Credit: Kensington Palace/PA

William has spent two years working on the project with his Royal Foundation and the seeds of the idea were sown during a visit to Namibia, Tanzania and Kenya in autumn 2018, when he met frontline conservation workers and those from local communities.

He went on to discuss the idea with a number of individuals including his father the Prince of Wales and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough.

Sir David appeared in a video which first announced the Earthshot Prize in December last year and recently met William, and his family, at Kensington Palace for a private viewing of the broadcaster’s new documentary.

Nominations for the prize open on November 1 with an annual global awards ceremony to be held in a different city each year, starting with London in autumn 2021.

The BBC will screen a five-part series ahead of the first awards ceremony featuring William, scientists, wildlife experts and environmentalists, and focusing on the five Earthshots.