'Next 10 years are critical’: Prince William backs £50m climate change project Earthshots

Duke of Cambridge throws his weight behind initiative, whose founding partners include DP World and Dubai Expo 2020

LONDON, ENGLAND: (EMBARGOED TO 0001 ON OCTOBER 8, 2020) (NO SALES) In this undated photo issued by Kensington Palace, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Sir David Attenborough discuss The Earthshot Prize at Kensington Palace, in London, England. (Photo by Kensington Palace via Getty Images) NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
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Britain's Prince William has launched a Dubai-backed £50 million ($64.6m) drive to find the best visionary climate change projects that can help to save the planet.

DP World in partnership with Dubai Expo 2020 are among the founding partners of the Earthshot Prize, the inspiration for which was provided by conservationist Sir David Attenborough.

The initiative has a 10-year plan designed to clean up the Earth by 2030.

Only the best environmental ideas with the biggest wow factor will be considered for an Earthshot accolade, said Royal Foundation chief executive Jason Knauf.

Mr Knauf said the Earthshots project was based on the theory that “urgency plus optimism equals action”.

He said that by taking pessimism out of the equation and working alongside those committed to science, the rising climate crisis might be alleviated.

Mr Knauf said Dubai Expo was an ideal platform for the initiative.

“We have bought in philanthropy covering China, the Middle East, North America and Europe to make sure we have local expertise and each of our partners bring expertise beyond financial support,” he said.

“DP World is heavily involved with Dubai Expo and that is going to be a very important showcase for innovation and sustainable energy and technology, which is a perfect platform for the Earthshot Prize to work with.”

Environmental activist and campaigner Mya-Rose Craig, 18, holds a cardboard sign reading "youth strike for climate" as she sits on the ice floe in the middle of the Arctic Ocean, hundreds of miles above the Arctic Circle, September 20, 2020. REUTERS/Natalie Thomas
Environmental activist Mya-Rose Craig, 18, on an ice floe in the middle of the Arctic Ocean. Reuters
We are rapidly approaching a number of tipping points.

It is hoped the winners will inspire “everyone from a schoolchild in Africa to a boardroom in Europe”, Mr Knauf said.

The awards are all the more prestigious thanks to the project’s royal backing.

Prince William, who has been immersed in environmental issues all his life, said the same resources used to tackle the coronavirus pandemic should be devoted to saving the natural world.

He added: “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. The next 10 years are a critical decade for change.

"Time is of the essence, which is why we believe that this very ambitious global prize is the only way forward.”

The scheme is inspired by former US president John F Kennedy’s "moonshot" vision in the 1960s, which resulted in the Americans putting men on the Moon, thus winning the Cold War space race against the Soviet Union.

The Earthshots will award £1m to each of five projects for the next 10 years, making it the world’s most high-profile accolade for fighting climate change.

"We are rapidly approaching a number of tipping points," Mr Knauf said.

"If we don’t act now, we may find that runaway climate change and the destruction of the natural world will simply become impossible to stop.

“This is not theory any more. We can see the fires burning, the ice caps melting. The most vulnerable people on the planet are already suffering from rising sea levels.

“Prince William identified a challenge. Urgency is a key part to people demanding change but people feel pessimistic about our ability to solve complex challenges.”

“With every prize we will demonstrate we have the answers. Our power to innovate and co-operate can now save the planet for future generations. The Earthshot prize will speak to every corner of the Earth.”

Organisers contacted representatives at the Nobel and X Prize foundations to establish how winners would be chosen.

One of the first people Prince William spoke to was Sir David.

FILE - In this Sept. 27, 2020 file photo the Glass Fire burns a hillside above Silverado Trail in St. Helena, Calif. With months still to go in California's fire season, the state has already shattered records for the amount of land scorched in a single year, more than 4 million acres to date, with one blaze alone surpassing the 1 million-acre mark. Five of the 10 largest wildfires in state history have occurred since August. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)
A wildfire burns through a hillside in California. AP Photo

The best ideas will be adjudged by nominators from around the world across five categories: protect and restore nature; clean our air; revive our oceans; build a waste-free world; and fix our climate.

Earthshot’s other founding partners are the Aga Khan Development Network, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Jack Ma Foundation, Marc and Lynne Benioff, and the Paul G Allen Family Foundation.

Nominations will open on November 1, with the first winners – which could be people, established companies, start-ups or even cities – being named in December 2021.

Finalists will have the chance to scale up their project with Earthshot funding.

“We will provide a global platform so that the people who have the solutions have the loudest voice in the room,” Mr Knauf said.