The Earthshot Prize, founded by Britain's Prince William, on Sunday night revealed its first five winners at a glittering ceremony held in London.
Each winner will receive £1million ($1.3m) prize money and a global network of support for their environmental solutions to repair the planet.
The five winners include transformative technologists, innovators, an entire country and a pioneering city.
They were chosen for their ground-breaking solutions to the greatest environmental challenges facing our planet.
“Our five inspirational winners show that everyone has a role to play in the global effort to repair our planet," said Prince William, who is also a council member for the prize.
"We need businesses, leaders, innovators and communities to take action. And ultimately, we need all of us to demand that the solutions get the support they need.
"Because the success of our winners is our collective, global Earthshot.”
The Earthshot Prize winners for 2021 are:
Protect and Restore Nature: The Republic of Costa Rica
With an innovative policy paying citizens to protect rainforests and restore local ecosystems, Costa Rica and its Ministry for Environment have reversed decades of deforestation.
Since the programme was launched, Costa Rica’s forests have doubled in size, leading to a boom in ecotourism and contributing $4 billion to the economy.
Through winning the Earthshot Prize, Costa Rica will expand its work to protect the ocean and support the replication of its approach in other countries, especially in the global south.
Clean Our Air: Takachar, India
Takachar, in New Delhi, has developed technology to help end the burning of agricultural waste, which causes severe air pollution.
Its cheap, small-scale, portable technology is attached to tractors and converts crop residue into sellable products such as fuel and fertiliser, and helps to reduce smoke emissions by up to 98 per cent.
After winning the Earthshot Prize, Takachar will expand its operations to more rural communities around the world with a goal to cut a billion tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.
Revive Our Oceans: Coral Vita, the Bahamas
Coral Vita’s innovative approach to coral farming by growing it on land then replanting it in the ocean can produce it up to 50 times faster than traditional methods.
The process improves coral resilience to the effects of climate change.
Winning the Earthshot Prize will speed up Coral Vita’s goal to establish a global network of coral farms to grow a billion corals each year.
Build A Waste-free World: Milan's Food Waste Hubs
The Italian city's Food Waste Hub programme takes food from local supermarkets and restaurants and distributes it to citizens in need, recovering about 130 tonnes of food a year, for the equivalent of an estimated 260,000 meals.
Through winning the Earthshot Prize, Milan’s model can be used by other cities.
Fix Our Climate: AEM Electrolyser, Thailand, Germany and Italy
The AEM Electrolyser from Enapter turns renewable electricity into emission-free hydrogen more quickly and cheaply than ever before, and can transform the ways people power homes and buildings, and fuel transport.
Funding from the Earthshot Prize will help to increase the technology to mass production, making it universally easy to buy and install AEM Electrolysers wherever activities have high energy demand.
The ceremony capped a 10-month global search with more than 750 applications from around the world.
Fifteen finalists were chosen through a rigorous selection process, supported by an expert advisory panel, for their ability to aid people and the natural world, and their ability to help reach Earthshot goals.
The prize council also includes Queen Rania of Jordan, Sir David Attenborough, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Indra Nooyi, Shakira Mebarak, Christiana Figueres, Luisa Neubauer, Cate Blanchett, Yao Ming, Daniel Alves Da Silva, Ernest Gibson, Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, Jack Ma and Naoko Yamazaki.
At the end of the event, televised by the BBC, Prince William took to the stage to tell the audience: “I want to say something to the young watching tonight.
“For too long, we haven’t done enough to protect the planet for your future. The Earthshot is for you. In the next 10 years, we are going to act.
“We are going to find the solutions to repair our planet. Please keep learning, keep demanding change and don’t give up hope.
“We will rise to these challenges.”
His wife Kate presented the winning award in the Protect and Restore Nature category to the government of Costa Rica, which has pioneered a project paying local citizens to restore natural ecosystems.
“Nature is vital to us all," she said. “A thriving natural world regulates our planet, nurtures our physical and mental health and helps feed our families.
“But for too long, we’ve neglected our wild spaces and now we’re facing a number of tipping points.
“If we don’t act now, we will permanently destabilise our planet and we will rob our children of the future they deserve.”
The winners were connected to the awards ceremony by global broadcast, where Prince William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, were joined by Attenborough, Ms Figueres, Alves and stars and performers including Ed Sheeran and Yemi Alade.
All 15 finalists will receive tailored support from the Earthshot Prize Global Alliance, a network of philanthropies, NGOs and private-sector businesses around the world who will help to increase their solutions.
“The natural world on which we entirely depend is declining at a rate faster than at any time since the end of the dinosaurs," Attenborough said.
"We know where this story is heading and we must now write a different ending. This is what the Earthshot Prize was created to achieve.
"The 15 Earthshot Prize finalists tonight build optimism by finding innovative and brilliant solutions to the world’s challenges, and they give us hope, which we are told, springs eternal.”
The awards ceremony concluded by revealing that the prize ceremony will travel to the US in 2022. Nominations for the 2022 prize will open in January.