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Prince William launches Nobel-style environmental Earthshot Prize

Written by on 8 October 2020

The Duke of Cambridge has launched an ambitious Nobel-style environmental award, with a GBP50m prize fund, to recognise and celebrate ideas and technologies that can target the climate crisis.

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

Every year from 2021 until the end of the decade, winners in five categories will each receive GBP1m 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 a speech, 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.”

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The winners 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.

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The GBP50m prize fund will be provided by the project’s global alliance founding partners, a group that 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.

The Earthshot Prize takes its inspiration from the Apollo moon landings, nicknamed Moonshot, which led to a whole host of technological achievements. Prince William hopes the award will inspire the same spirit of excitement and ingenuity, with the winners being celebrated globally like returning astronauts.

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It will be a major focus of the Duke’s work over the next 10 years and is likely to be seen as a career-defining project, like his father’s Prince’s Trust or grandfather’s Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme.

William has spent two years working on the project with his Royal Foundation. He was especially spurred on to come up with an ambitious global project after a visit to Namibia, Tanzania and Kenya in autumn 2018, when he met frontline conservation workers and those from local communities.

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He discussed the idea with a number of individuals including his father and the broadcaster Sir David Attenborough.

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