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The Earthshot Prize: What is Prince William’s £1 million award about?

Earthshot Prize: Established in 2020, 2021 was the first year when awards were handed out to finalists for their contributions towards the five UN Sustainable Development Goals.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: October 19, 2021 8:01:33 am
Prince William and Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, attend the Earthshot Prize Awards Ceremony at Alexandra Palace in London on Sunday. (Photo: AP)

As stars started arriving on a green carpet, the message was ringing loud and clear — environmental challenges require the same kind of attention as the Oscars.

Dubbed as the “Eco Oscars”, The Earthshot Prize is an award set up by Prince William and the Royal Foundation, the charity founded by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and historian David Attenborough to honour five finalists between 2021 and 2030 for developing solutions to fight the climate crisis.

The inaugural edition remains special for India as Vidyut Mohan’s technology that recycles agricultural waste to create fuel was named among the winners of the coveted prize.

Established in 2020, 2021 was the first year when awards were handed out to finalists for their contributions towards the five UN Sustainable Development Goals — restoration and protection of nature, air cleanliness, ocean revival, waste-free living and climate action.

Prince William was joined by stars including Emma Watson, Dame Emma Thompson and David Oyelowo for the ceremony at Alexandra Palace.

Ed Sheeran, Coldplay and KSI were among the acts that performed – and in keeping with the eco message, the music was powered by 60 cyclists pedalling on bikes.

British actress Emma Watson attends the Earthshot Prize Awards Ceremony at Alexandra Palace in London on Sunday. (Photo: AP)

No celebrities flew to London for the ceremony, no plastic was used to build the stage and guests were asked to “consider the environment” when choosing an outfit — with Watson wearing a dress made from 10 different dresses from Oxfam.

What are the prizes about?

Inspired by former US President John F Kennedy’s Moonshot — when the president had set a goal of reaching the Moon in less than a decade — the Earthshot Prize hopes to encourage and support the development of solutions for Earth’s environmental problems.

Five individuals or organisations that have come up with impactful solutions to problems plaguing the planet will be awarded one million euros. Each year five winners will be selected, one for each of the UN SDG goal categories, with a total of 50 million euros being awarded by 2030.

The winners will be chosen from 15 finalists, three for each category, by the Earthshot Prize Council. The council comprises global spokespersons who are striving to bring impactful action in various capabilities.

The council includes Prince William, David Attenborough, Jordan’s Queen Rania, actor Cate Blanchett, former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres, footballer Dani Alves, environmental activist Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, corporate figures Indra Nooyi, Jack Ma, former astronaut Naoko Yamazaki, World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, singer Shakira, basketball legend Yao Ming, climate activists Luisa Neubauer and Ernest Gibson, and Michael Bloomberg as a global advisor. Hannah Jones, the former chief sustainability officer for Nike, was announced as the programme’s CEO as well.

In order to ensure that solutions are implemented in a real-world use case, the organisation has partnered with several global organisations to scale up the solutions provided by the first 15 finalists.

Companies like Arup, Bloomberg LP, Deloitte, Herbert Smith Freehills, Hitachi, the INGKA Group, Microsoft, MultiChoice, Natura & Co, Safaricom, Salesforce, Unilever, Vodacom, and Walmart make up the Earthshot Global Alliance that will be involved in scaling up the solutions.

Aga Khan Development Network, Bloomberg Philanthropies, DP World in partnership with Dubai Expo 2020, the Jack Ma Foundation, Marc and Lynne Benioff, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, the WWF, the Green Belt Movement, Greenpeace, and Conservation International are some of the organisations and philanthropic institutes that are helping to fund the prizes.

The winners this year

Protect and Restore Nature

The Republic of Costa Rica: Costa Rica was a country that once cleared most of its forests, but it has now doubled the number of trees and is seen as a role model for others to follow. The winning project is a scheme paying local citizens to restore natural ecosystems that has led to a revival of the rainforest.

Clean our Air

Takachar, India: A portable machine created to turn agricultural waste into fertiliser so that farmers do not burn their fields and cause air pollution.

Takachar wins the Clean Our Air award. (Photo: AP)

Revive our Oceans

Coral Vita, Bahamas: A project run by two best friends who are growing coral in the Bahamas, designed to restore the world’s dying coral reefs. Using special tanks, they have developed a way to grow coral up to 50 times faster than they normally take in nature.

Build a Waste-Free World

The City of Milan Food Waste Hubs, Italy: Another challenge is waste – and the city of Milan in Italy wins a prize for collecting unused food and giving it to people who need it most. The initiative has dramatically cut waste while tackling hunger.

Fix our Climate

AEM Electrolyser, Thailand/Germany/Italy: A clever design in Thailand using renewable energy to make hydrogen by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen is a clean gas but it is usually produced by burning fossil fuels.

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