The Duke of Cambridge has announced that £50m will be awarded over 10 years through his ambitious Earthshot prize, billed as “the most prestigious global environment prize in history”, which aims to find solutions to repair the planet by 2030.
Five £1m prizes will be awarded each year for the next 10 years, aiming to provide at least 50 solutions to some of the world’s environmental problems.
Individuals, people-powered movements, businesses cities, and countries can be nominated for the prizes.
“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,” William said.
“The next 10 years are a critical decade for change. Time is of the essence, which is why we believe this very ambitious global prize is the only way forward.”
William has spent two years setting up the prize through his Royal Foundation, taking advice from teams behind the Nobel prize and the Xprize. He believes it is unique, and he is bringing leading global figures and organisations onboard.
With the planet at a “tipping point”, he said, he felt the sense of urgency of the situation worsening each year, coinciding with a feeling of pessimism over humankind’s ability to solve complex challenges. This was causing many people to look the other way, he believed.
“The duke took this as an opportunity to ask what he could do to turn this equation around. He wanted to keep the sense of urgency but turn the pessimism into optimism in the belief it would lead to real action,” said Jason Knauf, the chief executive of the Royal Foundation. “It was this new equation – urgency plus optimism equals action – that led to the Earthshot prize.”
Knauf added: “Our power to innovate and cooperate 50 years ago put a man on the moon. And our power to innovate and cooperate can now save the planet for future generations.”
William is said to have been clear that the prize could not just be about him or his Royal Foundation, and that it was imperative it was led by a global team of experts. He said he had chosen the challenge after realising he had a leadership role to play and now was the time to play it.
Nominations for the first five £1m prizes will open on 1 November. More than 100 “nominators” have been selected from around the globe. The first five winners will be announced at a ceremony in London next year.
The prize is supported by a global alliance of partnerships, including WWF and Greenpeace, and there are plans for it to have its own foundation by next year. Backers include the Aga Khan Development Network, Bloomberg Philanthropies, DP World in partnership with Dubai Expo 2020, and the Jack Ma Foundation.
To mark the launch, William and Sir David Attenborough are interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday. 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.”