Five global thinkers were each awarded a grant worth £1m to develop their ideas and technologies.
Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge attend the Earthshot Prize 2021 at Alexandra Palace on 17 October, 2021, in London, England. Photograph: WPA/Getty Images
Celebrities have joined Prince William in London for the inaugural awards ceremony of his Earthshot Prize, an ambitious environmental program aimed at finding new ideas and technologies around the world to tackle the climate crisis and Earth’s most pressing challenges.
William launched the Earthshot Prize through his charity, the Royal Foundation, last year with plans to name five winners every year until 2030.
In a video pre-recorded for the ceremony, William said: “We are alive in the most consequential time in human history. The actions we choose or choose not to take in the next 10 years will determine the fate of the planet for the next thousand.
“A decade doesn’t seem long, but humankind has an outstanding record of being able to solve the unsolvable … The future is ours to determine. And if we set our minds to it, nothing is impossible.”
The Republic of Costa Rica picked up the “protect and restore nature” award for its efforts to protect forests, plant trees and restore ecosystems. The policy pays citizens to protect the rainforests and restore local ecosystems, reversing decades of deforestation and leading to a boom in ecotourism.
Costa Rica’s president, Carlos Alvarado, said the award was received “with pride but humility”, adding that “what we have achieved in this small country in Central America can be done anywhere.”
Indian company Takachar won the “clean our air” prize for developing pioneering technology to help end the burning of agricultural waste. Their cheap, small-scale, portable device attaches to tractors and converts crop residues into sellable products such as fuel and fertiliser, further helping to reduce smoke emissions by up to 98%.
Other winners included Coral Vita, a land-based coral farm in the Bahamas with a project to restore dying coral reefs by growing coral in tanks at a rate 50 times quicker than traditional methods.
The northern Italian city of Milan won the “food waste hubs” award as the first major city to enforce a city-wide food waste policy to recover food from local supermarkets and restaurants and distribute it to citizens in need, recovering about 130 tonnes of food a year, or an estimated 260,000 meals.
The “fix our climate” award went to a joint Thai-German-Italian team for the AEM Electrolyzer, which uses renewable energy to make clean hydrogen by splitting water into its constituent elements.
Each of the finalists – chosen by experts from more than 750 nominations – will be given help from companies to develop their projects.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge speaking to Sir David Attenborough during the first Earthshot Prize awards ceremony at Alexandra Palace in London. Photograph: Alberto Pezzali/PA
Sir David Attenborough, Christiana Figueres, Dani Alves and a host of stars and performers including Ed Sheeran and Yemi Alade also attended the event.
The ceremony comes just days ahead of the Cop26 UN climate change summit in Glasgow, which begins on 31 October.
Earlier this week William took a swipe at billionaires embroiled in a space tourism race, saying in an interview with the BBC that the world’s greatest minds should be focused on repairing Earth instead of “trying to find the next place to go and live”.
The Queen was also recently overheard criticising world leaders who “talk” but “don’t do” enough about the planetary crisis.
With Associated Press and Agence France-Presse