I am an optimist. A stubborn optimist.
I believe in the power of human ingenuity and I’m thrilled to bring The Earthshot Prize to the U.S.
This week, in Boston, we want to demonstrate what we can all do to help put the world on a path toward a stable climate, where communities, nature and oceans thrive in harmony.
Sixty years ago, President John F. Kennedy captured the imagination of this great nation when he uttered words that are as inspirational in 2022 as they were that bright sunny day in Houston in 1962: “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”
We face a challenge as seemingly insurmountable as putting a person on the moon: reversing the damage that has been done to our planet, and putting ourselves on a path toward a more sustainable future.
That’s why I created The Earthshot Prize. Inspired by President Kennedy’s Moonshot, this global environmental prize scours the planet to discover, celebrate and scale ground-breaking solutions to the greatest challenges our planet faces.
Every year, we will award the best solutions in five “Earthshot” categories with over $1 million of funding for each awardee to expand their work. These are solutions that will: Protect and Restore Nature, Revive Our Oceans, Clean Our Air, Build a Waste-Free World and Fix Our Climate.
Today the 2022 cohort of winners will be unveiled at the second annual awards ceremony, which takes place in Boston ― the birthplace of President John F. Kennedy, a world-renowned center of scientific research and innovation, and a city committed to leadership on climate renewal.
As well as a passionate focus on telling the stories of those working to repair our planet, what sets The Earthshot Prize apart is our commitment to connect all of our finalists, not just the winners, with our Global Alliance ― a network of philanthropists, business leaders, entrepreneurs and strategic experts who share our vision and can truly supercharge these solutions to help change the course of our future.
If it sounds ambitious, optimistic, and hopeful ― that’s because it is.
And it is President Kennedy’s words from which we have drawn so much inspiration, as he continued: “... that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win.”
It is this optimistic ambition that is the foundation for everything The Earthshot Prize stands for.
Repairing our planet is not going to be easy, but the case for taking action to protect our natural world is undeniable.
Every day we learn of a new fact or figure, or we reach an alarming milestone that marks our seemingly inexorable ― and rapid ― march toward climate catastrophe.
Just this year, we learned that the planet’s wildlife populations have declined by an average of 69% in less than 50 years; unprecedented rainfall in Pakistan led to record floods that claimed thousands of lives; the Horn of Africa is set to face its fifth consecutive failed rainy season ― in an area where drought has already led to the displacement of 1.1 million people; and the United States has endured 15 weather or climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion for each of them. In my home country, the mercury hit 104 Fahrenheit this summer for the first time in history.
Against that backdrop, it’s easy to understand how people can feel overwhelmed, pessimistic, and fatalistic.
But there is reason for hope.
Over that same period, our finalists and winners from 2021 saw incredible gains. The Republic of Costa Rica has extended its protected marine area from 3% of its ocean territory to 30% and has partnered with Restor, a fellow Earthshot finalist from 2021, to track its progress against its deforestation pledge made at COP26. Coral Vita, a coral restoration project off the coast of Grand Bahama, has planted more than 6,000 coral fragments around the world and is laying the foundations for the first-ever commercial land-based coral farm. A further $20 million of funding has been secured by Pristine Seas, a finalist in 2021, to explore, document, and conduct research in the Pacific Ocean over the next five years so that we may better protect our oceans; and Nairobi-based Sanergy, who turn sanitation waste into fertilizer, has secured over $50 million in blended equity and grant funding, making it both the largest producer and seller of organic fertilizer in the region but also recipient of the single largest circular economy investment into East Africa.
This momentum is the output of just five of the 15 Earthshot finalists in 2021.
They are living proof that the solutions we need do exist and that there are brilliant people across the globe working tirelessly to reverse the current climate trajectory.
The Earthshot Prize wants to find the best of them. We want to celebrate and support them so that we not only supercharge their positive impact but also demonstrate to a despairing world that there is an optimistic way forward.
Those defining few years of the Moonshot, which witnessed huge scientific and technological strides forward, were a demonstration that seemingly impossible goals are within reach if we only harness the limitless power of innovation, human ingenuity, and urgent optimism. Let’s not forget the wave of innovation the Moonshot unlocked, driving social and economic progress in the U.S. for decades.
Dire predictions about our natural world aren’t the only side to this story and they don’t have to be our future.
In this critical decade, I invite you all to be optimistic, to support the game-changers and to believe in the power of human ingenuity.
Prince William has long been an advocate for conserving the natural world. He has led international efforts to crack down on the illegal wildlife trade through United for Wildlife, helped deliver an ivory ban in the UK, and continues to support many global initiatives that focus on conservation and ending human wildlife conflict. However, he believes that if we are to succeed in our fight to protect the planet, we need to redouble our efforts over the next decade. The Earthshot Prize was launched after two years of work by Prince William and The Royal Foundation of The Prince and Princess of Wales to develop a project which will support the global effort to protect and restore the environment. As well as identifying evidence-based solutions to the biggest environmental problems the planet faces, The Earthshot Prize aims to turn the current pessimism surrounding environmental issues into optimism that we can rise to the biggest challenges of our time.