Britain’s Prince William is dedicating $65 million to create a new environmental award, in an effort to inspire solutions to some of the Earth’s most pressing challenges.
In an interview with CNN’s Max Foster, the prince said he considered the prize would be “the most prestigious environmental global prize” to date and his aim is to shift the debate from pessimism and negativity to optimism and hope.
“There are wonderful people doing incredible things around the world, all within small communities everywhere. If one of them might have an amazing idea, we can scale that up, we can use that to really tackle some issues,” he said.
Starting in 2021, the Earthshot Prize will be awarded annually to five people, organizations or groups for solutions to the five “earthshot” objectives: protecting and restoring nature, cleaning the air, reviving oceans, building a waste-free world or fixing the climate.
As a result, the hope is to have at least 50 solutions to problems within each of these five areas by 2030.
Kensington Palace aims to make the prize one of the most prestigious global environmental awards in history. Each winner will receive £1 million ($1.3 million) – slightly more than a Nobel prize-winner receives.
In terms of climate, the year 2020 has shattered a number of heat records, raising alarm bells that the Earth is heading for an increase in global temperatures of more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that an increase above this threshold could have dangerous and life-threatening consequences through heatwaves, rising sea levels and water scarcity, among many others.
“We want to change the conversation and show that we can provide solutions, we can tackle this, and in 10 years’ time, we can make our planet more sustainable and more prosperous and better for everyone,” the prince told CNN.
“My grandfather started doing stuff with conservation a long time ago, WWF particularly. My father was ahead of his time talking about climate change. I don’t want to be ahead of my time because then we’re already too late – now is the time to act.”
The prince has signed up high-profile names to his prize council, including Australian Hollywood actor Cate Blanchett, Chinese billionaire philanthropist Jack Ma, Brazilian footballer Dani Alves, Colombian singer Shakira and British naturalist David Attenborough.
“I really do think things are about to start to move, and this sort of idea could be the spark that is really going to give it the lift and the impetus to develop into something huge,” Attenborough said in a statement Thursday. “It’s a great source of hope, and I hope it spreads around the world.”
Jason Knauf, Chief Executive of The Royal Foundation, which will oversee the prize, said to reporters in a briefing earlier this week that the world was in a “make-or-break decade for the planet.”
“We are rapidly approaching a number of tipping points and we know that if we don’t act now we may find that stopping runaway climate change and destruction of the natural world will simply become impossible. This isn’t theory anymore,” he said.
Prince William came up with the idea for the awards during a visit to Namibia, Tanzania and Kenya two years ago and has since taken advice from dozens of individuals and organizations, including The Nobel Institute, Greenpeace, World Economic Forum and Prince Charles, his father.
The term Earthshot was inspired by President John F. Kennedy’s “moonshot” effort to put a man on the moon.
Nominations will open on November 1 this year. An annual global awards ceremony will be held in a different city each year, starting in London in autumn 2021.
This story has been updated.