HRH Prince William chats to Sir David Attenborough ahead of the prize's launch.

HRH Prince William chats to Sir David Attenborough ahead of the prize's launch.

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The Earthshot Prize: Prince William launches strategy to repair our planet

His Royal Highness Prince William has created The Earthshot Prize to generate a global movement to repair our planet.

It is hoped that the launch of the prize will start a decade of action to begin healing the natural world. It will highlight everyone's ability to change the planet for the better, if we all put our minds to it.

Nature is on the brink of catastrophe unless we act now. Last year, the Museum declared a planetary emergency in recognition of the huge challenges humanity is facing.

Taking inspiration from President John F. Kennedy's Moonshot, which united millions of people around an organising goal to put man on the moon, The Earthshot Prize is centred around five simple but ambitious goals. If those goals are achieved by 2030 life will be improved for everyone, and for generations to come.

Those goals are:

  • protect and restore nature
  • clean our air
  • revive our oceans
  • build a waste-free world
  • fix our climate

Together, these five interconnected problems pose a unique set of challenges. The Prince's team said they are aiming to generate new ways of thinking, as well as new technologies, systems, policies and solutions.

The focus areas are underpinned by scientifically agreed targets including the UN Sustainable Development Goals and other internationally recognised measures to help repair our planet. 

Every year from 2021 until 2030, Prince William, alongside The Earthshot Prize Council which covers six continents, will award £1 million each to five winners whose evidence-based solutions make the most progress towards these goals.

Prince William says, '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 ten 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 Earthshot website says, 'The challenges will be a chance for everyone's voice to be heard, we want to motivate and inspire a new generation of thinkers, leaders and dreamers.

'Our prizes will reward progress across all sectors of industry and society, not just technology. The prizes could be awarded to a wide range of individuals, teams or collaborations - scientists, activists, economists, leaders, governments, banks, businesses, cities, and countries - anyone who is making a substantial development or outstanding contribution to solving our environmental challenges.'



The problems Earth is facing

Nature is in crisis. The world is increasingly managed in a way that maximises the flow of material from nature, to meet rising human demands for resources like food, energy and timber.

As a result, humans have directly altered at least 70% of Earth's land, mainly for growing plants and keeping animals. These activities necessitate deforestation, the degradation of land, loss of biodiversity and pollution, and they have the biggest impacts on land and freshwater ecosystems.

The air we're breathing isn't healthy: the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that air pollution kills seven million every year.

More than one million species are thought to be at risk of extinction as the world's biodiversity plummets. Climate change, intensive farming, invasive species and the illegal trade in wildlife are all contributing to the problem.

In the oceans, fishing, drilling and mining are depleting animal and plant stocks and creating potential food security issues for future generations. Ocean acidification is adding to the burden, as well as climate change.

We also need to tackle where our waste goes. Plastic waste now permeates every part of our planet, choking marine life and making its way into the food chain.

The solutions

The issues are global and complex, so solutions won't be easy.

Museum scientists have made a start in mapping out a range of future scenarios which are based on actions humanity takes now.

In his latest report on biodiversity, Andy Purvis, a research leader at the Museum, recommended an approach that takes into account the links between nature, politics and socioeconomics.

Real changes could be made for nature if we focus on restoring ecosystems that store carbon, like forests and wetlands. Similarly, we need to rethink how we farm, fish and feed the world.

Switching to clean energy on a mass scale would help too, as well as profound, system-wide change from policymakers, businesses communities and individuals.

The prize

The Earthshot Prize is the Royal Foundation's first major step to start tackling these global problems.

Initiatives can be nominated for the prize by one of the project's Global Alliance Partners, including Greenpeace, National Geographic Society, the UN Environment Programme and WWF. A network of nominating partners, which includes academic and non-profit institutions all over the world, can also put forward names.

This year, nominations will open on 1 November.

An awards ceremony will take place in different cities across the world each year between 2021 and 2030, at which the five winners for each of the Earthshots will be selected from 15 finalists. The first awards ceremony will take place in London in autumn 2021. 

Winners will gain a global platform and £1 million in prize money to support environmental and conservation projects.  Shortlisted nominees will also be given tailored support and opportunities to help scale their work, including being connected with an ecosystem of likeminded individuals and organisations.