Zayed Sustainability Prize: record 4,000 entries from 151 countries

Entries this year address the Covid-19 pandemic, with the $3m award to be announced in Abu Dhabi next January

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, embraces Buretaake Ioane, 15, at the awards in 2020. His school, Eutan Tarawa Ieta Junior Secondary School in the Republic of Kiribati, won first place in its region in the "global high schools" category. Antonie Robertson / The National
Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, embraces Buretaake Ioane, 15, at the awards in 2020. His school, Eutan Tarawa Ieta Junior Secondary School in the Republic of Kiribati, won first place in its region in the "global high schools" category. Antonie Robertson / The National

The Zayed Sustainability Prize has attracted a record 4,000 submissions from 151 countries around the globe.

Brazil, India, Kenya, the US and China are among the top countries represented, with the number of entries increasing by about 70 per cent compared with previous years.

Submissions this year address the Covid-19 pandemic through mobile clinics, for example, while other critically urgent issues included water scarcity and food security.

The annual $3 million prize supports green projects chiefly in food and health that also help the environment.

Since its launch in 2008, it has changed the lives of more than 352 million people in 150 countries.

From a project to help villagers in Cambodia gain access to clean water to a smartphone app that allows farmers to tackle crop diseases, the many projects over the years have changed the world.

The prize will be awarded in January and comes after a critical few months in the battle against climate change. Central to this is the Cop26 summit in Glasgow in November.

We are proud and encouraged to have received so many applications despite the difficult conditions the world is facing

Dr Sultan Al Jaber

“Inspired by the legacy of the UAE’s Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the prize continues to demonstrate the UAE’s commitment to promoting sustainability and humanitarianism," said Dr Sultan Al Jaber, UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and director general of the prize.

"We are proud and encouraged to have received so many applications despite the difficult conditions the world is facing and we will move forward with purpose as the prize continues to fulfil its role in supporting innovators and forward-thinking organisations who seek to change our world for the better.

“As the international community continues to unite around ambitious climate action in the lead up to Cop26, the high level of participation registered this year further demonstrated that creative, sustainable solutions could come from every part of the world, and importantly can deliver tangible economic benefits along with social progress."

The prize postponed its 2021 cycle because of the pandemic, but entries were automatically considered alongside the latest applicants.

Food (1,201) and health (879) were the categories that attracted the most entries, followed by energy (759) and water (627). With 534 submissions, the "global high schools" category underlines the commitment of young people to saving the planet.

Submissions in health are particularly important, coming during a pandemic that has caused chaos around the globe. A high number of entries address Covid-19, such as telehealth solutions and mobile clinics.

In the water category, many entries are geared towards extraction, filtration and wastewater purification technology, especially in relation to pandemics and natural disasters.

Other submissions in transmission and distribution may be a response to water scarcity and the water crisis the world is facing.

Another encouraging trend for the future of sustainability is number of submissions from high schools.

A large number of entries in the global high schools category proposed school garden projects to help feed schools and the most needy families in their communities.

Now a committee comprising globally renowned experts will assess shortlisted entries and choose the finalists. The winners will be announced during Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week in January.

Each category winner receives a prize fund of $600,000. The prize for the global high schools category will be shared equally among six winning schools from six world regions.

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Updated: June 3, 2021 10:17 PM

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