Earthshot Prize: What to expect from Prince William's celeb-backed awards ceremony

KSI, a British rapper and Youtuber, and Sir David Attenborough are on the Earthshot guestlist. Credit: PA

Over 10 million people press clothes for a living in India, and Prince William’s new Earthshot Prize could give them a green way to keep working without polluting the planet.

India’s ironing vendors burn charcoal to heat their irons and they are significant contributors to the country's poor air quality and carbon emissions. One of the finalists of Sunday night's Earthshot Prize is Vinisha Umashankar, who is only 14-years-old. Ms Umashankar has designed a solar-powered ironing cart that can provide six hours of battery life for an iron.

She is one of 15 finalists at the ceremony at Alexandra Palace – five of whom will receive £1 million each today to further develop their innovations. Vinisha’s ironing cart is at the core of what Prince William’s Earthshot Prize is all about: finding practical solutions, small or large, to lessen mankind’s destructive impact on our planet. In fact, ever since he launched the scheme, the Duke of Cambridge has spoken of his ambition to covert the pessimism surrounding the climate emergency into optimism.

William wants the greatest minds and most innovative thinkers to collectively find solutions in five key areas, which he's dubbed: Restore Nature, Clean our Air, Revive our Oceans, Build a Waste-Free World and Fix our Climate.

It’s William’s biggest contribution yet to the environmental cause – and he has invested a lot of time and energy in what has become, for him, a very personal project. He has spoken of how he wants to be able to look his children in the eye and tell them that he did what he could during a decade which scientists believe is crucial for the climate.

Vinisha Umashankar and her ironing cart

And it means Prince William is following in his father’s footsteps in being a vocal and public advocate for our planet and the natural world. On the morning of the Earshot ceremony, Prince Charles, who made his first speech on the environment in the early 1970s, described how proud he is of his son. Charles praised William's “bold ambition” in creating the Earthshot Prize. And looking at both the contributors to the awards and the key personnel behind it, is a reminder of the convening power of the Royal Family – no matter what your view on the pros or cons of Monarchy.

Listen to our podcast - the Royal Rota

On the Prize Council are respected environmental figures such as Sir David Attenborough and the UN diplomat Christiana Figueres, campaigning pubic figures such as the Brazilian footballer Dani Alves, actor Cate Blanchett and the singer Shakira, plus Queen Rania of Jordan and the Japanese astronaut Naoko Yamazaki.

Supporting the awards are Coldplay, Shawn Mendes, KSI, Ed Sheeren, Yemi Alade, Emma Watson and Emma Thompson. The Queen has also spoken this week, in a conversation heard on microphones in Cardiff, of how she has been “irritated” by the lack of commitment from some world leaders to the big UN climate change commit which the UK is hosting at the end of October.

And when Royals are often accused of not walking the walk on environmental issues because of their transport methods or their many home - and I expect some of that will change in the imminent future - they’ve ensured they cannot be criticised for the environmental impact of tonight’s ceremony. The set has been designed so nothing goes to landfill, the food is meat-free and the performers have all agreed not to wear any new items of clothing for their performances.

Coldplay will be performing at the awards ceremony - and their set will be powered by kinetic energy from pedalling bikes. Credit: PA

Even the performance by Coldplay will be powered by kinetic energy from pedalling bikes. The name Earthshot was inspired by President Kennedy’s Moonshot programme in the 1960s and aims to unite as many people around the world in a collective effort to find solutions to repair the planet. The five lots of £1 million prizes will be given each year for the next 10 years in a bid to generate a decade of climate action.