Following in the footsteps of John F. Kennedy, Prince William is galvanising the world to make a difference through the Earthshot Prize, writes Helen Hayes
Tackling climate change often seems insurmountable and many of us prefer to put our heads in the sand as we feel we really can’t do anything about it. Prince William wanted to do something. Make a stand. Draw a line in the sand.
Founding the Earthshot Prize
In October 2020, he did just that, launching The Earthshot Prize – a visionary initiative aimed at inspiring and rewarding innovative solutions to the planet’s most pressing environmental challenges. As an influential global figure, and a father, Prince William utilised his platform to mobilise action and create a positive impact on the world. Inspired by President John F. Kennedy’s Moonshot which united millions of people around the goal of putting man on the moon, The Earthshot Prize is centred around five ‘Earthshots’ – simple but ambitious goals for our planet which if achieved by 2030 will improve life for us all, for generations.
When founding Earthshot, the Prince said: “The Earth is at a tipping point and we face a stark choice: either we continue as we are and irreparably damage our planet, or we remember our unique power as human beings and our continual ability to lead, innovate and problem-solve.” The clock is ticking and the determined Prince has set a time frame for Earthshot. “People can achieve great things. The next 10 years present us with one of our greatest tests – a decade of action to repair the Earth.” Just ten years … the race is most definitely on.
The five shots
There are five ‘shots’, distinct areas that address our most significant climate and environmental challenges;
- Protect and Restore Nature
- Clean Our Air
- Revive Our Oceans
- Build a Waste-Free World
- Fix Our Climate
Each year, prizes are given out to the winners of each ‘shot’, encouraging them to keep going, inspiring others to follow in their inspirational footsteps. Hannah Jones, The Earthshot Prize CEO, explains that The Earthshot Prize scours the world to find “entrepreneurs and innovators who exemplify the power of human ingenuity to address our most significant climate and environmental challenges.”
Leaders of innovation around the world
Two years down, there have been more than 1,500 nominations from 20 countries, with 10 winners from 30 finalists. In 2022, Indian start-up Kheyti won the Protect and Restore Nature shot, with an ingenious ‘Greenhouse-ina-Box’ solution for small-hold farmers. It provides their crops with shelter from unpredictable elements and destructive pests, while plants in the greenhouse require 98 per cent less water than those outside, with a yield seven times higher.
The Clean Our Air prize went to Kenya, where Mukuru Clean Stoves use processed biomass made from charcoal, wood and sugarcane that burns cleaner, creating 90 per cent less pollution than an open fire and 70 per cent less than a traditional cookstove. They are also cheaper, costing just $10, and halving ongoing fuel costs.
Notpla took home the prize for Build a Waste-Free World, with an ingenious alternative to plastic made from seaweed and plants. It is totally natural and entirely biodegradable and can be used to create a range of packaging products, such as a bubble to hold liquids, a coating for food containers, and paper for the cosmetic and fashion industry.
Oman’s 44.01 was the winner of the Fix Our Climate shot for 2022, for finding a way of removing CO₂ – something that is essential if we are to limit global warming – by permanently mineralising it in rock.
Reviving oceans closer to home
As for the winner of the Revive Our Oceans shot, we can look a lot closer to home. Earthshot at home In 2021, Living Seawalls was a finalist in the Revive Our Oceans shot, where habitat panels are fitted to sea defences to bring life back to shorelines. You can find these incredible Living Seawalls in 11 locations in Australia, as well as in Wales, Gibraltar and Singapore. In 2022, we went one better, with the winner of Revive Our Oceans based in Queensland.
The Indigenous Women of the Great Barrier Reef empower each other to protect critical ecosystems of the Reef. As custodians of the land, the rangers have also protected sites of great cultural and spiritual significance. Trained through the Queensland Indigenous Women Rangers Network (QIWRN), set up by Yuku Baja Muliku Landowner and Reserves, a Cooktownbased Traditional Owner group, these women combine ancient knowledge with modern tools like drones to monitor coral changes, forest fires and land degradation.
Yuku Baja Muliku’s Ranger Coordinator, Larissa Hale – the first female Indigenous ranger coordinator in Queensland – thanked Earthshot for the prize (a significant 1 million pounds), saying: “This place has always been our home, but today we risk losing it and the unique culture that has existed here for millennia. Our Women Rangers Network exists to protect our home and continue our traditions. We have made big firststeps, but we have a long way to go.”
The 2023 Earthshot Prize
On 19 September, 2023, the 15 finalists for the 2023 Earthshot Prize were announced at the second Earthshot Prize Innovation Summit, to be held in New York. The Summit will convene previous Earthshot prize winners and finalists along with policymakers, global business leaders, philanthropists and climate activists to scale their innovative solutions.
The winners will be announced at a ceremony to be held in Singapore on 7 November, 2023. “This is a big task we’re about to take on,” said Prince William, “and I think we need heroes. We need those people who really have got vision, who’ve got ambition, energy to step up, come forwards and give us solutions.”
Finalists for 2023
Build a waste-free world
- Circ, United States of America – a ground-breaking solution to enable the recycling of polycotton fabrics, which make up half of all textile waste. circ.earth
- Colorifix, United Kingdom – using DNA sequencing and nature’s own colours to create sustainable dyes that reduce the fashion industry’s use of water and harmful chemicals. colorfix.com
- S4S Technologies, India – solar-powered dryers and processing equipment combats food waste, enabling small-hold farmers to preserve crops and turn produce that might otherwise go to waste into valuable products. s4stechnologies.com
Clean our air
- Enso, United Kingdom – creates tyres specially designed for electric vehicles that are more sustainable and reduce harmful tyre pollution, leading to cleaner air for everyone. ensotyres.com
- GRST – Hong Kong, China – the development of a new way to build and recycle vital lithium-ion batteries, GRST’s solution offers a pathway to make the electric cars of the future even cleaner. grst.com
- Polish Smog Alert, Poland – one of the world’s most effective clean air campaign groups, Polish Smog Alert, helps secure policy change and air quality improvements across Poland and has goals to do the same across central and eastern Europe. polishsmogalert.org
Revive our oceans
- Abalobi, South Africa – works with small fishing communities to record their catch data and to ensure a fair and improved livelihood from sustainable fishing. abalobi.org
- Coastal 500- a global network of mayors and local government leaders, coastal 500 is restoring ocean habitats and advocating for coastal protection internationally. coastal500.org
- WildAid Marine program – global non-profit organisation WildAid uses partnership building and knowledge sharing to meet the world’s ocean conservation goals. marine.wildaid.org
Protect and restore nature
- Accion Andina, the Andes Mountains – a grassroots, community-based initiative working across South America to protect native high Andean forest ecosystems for their invaluable benefits to nature and millions of people in the region. accoin-andina.org
- Belterra, Brazil – works with smallholder farmers in Brazil to restore forests through regenerative agricultural practices and to create market incentives for sustainably grown crops. belterra.com
- Freetown the Treetown, Sierra Leone – combining community stewardship and digital tools, the city of Freetown’s initiative, Freetown the Treetown, is galvanising a grassroots movement for tree preservation in Sierra Leone’s capital.