As COP looms, Prince William awards debut Earthshot Prize

Agence France-Presse
As COP looms, Prince William awards debut Earthshot Prize
Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge speak with guests as they attend the inaugural Earthshot Prize awards ceremony at Alexandra Palace in London on October 17, 2021. The Earthshot Prize honours five inaugural winners with an award of £1 million ($1.4 million, 1.2 million euros) each to pursue solutions to the world's greatest environmental problems at a glitering gala ceremony. Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, launched the prestigious Earthshot Prize in October 2020 and hopes that the event will help propel the fight against climate change leading up to the COP26 summit in Scotland, calling those on the shortlist "innovators, leaders and visionaries".
Alberto Pezzali / POOL / AFP

LONDON, United Kingdom — Queen Elizabeth II's grandson Prince William presented the inaugural Earthshot prizes at a ceremony in London on Sunday, with projects from Costa Rica, Italy, the Bahamas and India picking up prizes.

The new annual awards were created by Prince William to reward efforts to save the planet in the face of climate change and global warming.

Five winners were announced, each receiving a million pounds ($1.4 million).

The build-up to the televised event — featuring the renowned naturalist David Attenborough and performances by Coldplay, Ed Sheeran and others — was marked by royal displeasure at world leaders' inaction on climate change.

William hopes it will help propel the fight against climate change leading up to the COP26 summit, which opens in Scotland at the end of the month, calling those on the shortlist "innovators, leaders and visionaries".

In a short film recorded for the ceremony in the London Eye and released ahead of the event on Sunday, William warns that the "actions we choose or choose not to take in the next 10 years will determine the fate of the planet for the next thousand".

"A decade doesn't seem long, but humankind has an outstanding record of being able to solve the unsolvable," he says.

"The future is ours to determine. And if we set our minds to it, nothing is impossible."

Winning initiatives

The Republic of Costa Rica was one of the winners on Sunday picking up the "Protect and Restore Nature" award for its efforts to protect forests, plant trees and restore ecosystems.

"We receive this recognition with pride but humility, what we have achieved in this small country in Central America can be done anywhere," said Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado.

Indian company Takachar won the "Clean our Air" prize for the creation of a portable machine which turns agricultural waste into fertiliser so that farmers do not burn the waste and cause air pollution

The other winners included Coral Vita, from the Bahamas, for a project to grow coral in tanks, 50 times quick than coral normally grows.

The northern Italian city of Milan won the "Food Waste Hubs" award for collecting unused food and giving it to people who need it most. 

The "Fix our Climate" laureate went to a joint Thai-German-Italian team for the AEM Electrolyzer, which uses renewable energy to make clean hydrogen by splitting water into its constituent elements.

Each of the finalists — chosen by experts from more than 750 nominations — will be given help from companies to develop their projects.

Prince William announced that the 2022 edition of the Earthshot Prize will be held in the United States. 

In a BBC interview this week, William took a potshot at wealthy space tourists, for neglecting problems closer to Earth, while his father and grandmother have also weighed in this week on climate change.

Opening the Welsh legislature in Cardiff on Thursday, the 95-year-old monarch was overheard upbraiding world leaders who "talk" but "don't do" enough about the planetary crisis.

The queen complained that not enough leaders had confirmed their attendance at COP26, with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi among the key players in doubt.

Royal double standards?

William's father, long-time environmentalist Prince Charles, meanwhile told the BBC that he worried the leaders coming would "just talk", rather than implement "action on the ground".

However, campaigners alleged climate hypocrisy from the royal family, which is Britain's biggest landowner, including large tracts of Scotland given over to hunting and farming.

Last weekend, TV presenter and environmentalist Chris Packham led a children's march to Buckingham Palace in London to deliver a petition with more than 100,000 signatures asking the queen to rewild royal lands.

"If they were to do so it would be a very powerful message that would resonate with people all over the world," he said. 

The Earthshot Prize, launched in October last year, was inspired by US president John F. Kennedy's "Moonshot" project in the 1960s to put a man on the moon.

It covers five areas: how to protect and restore nature; clean our air; revive our oceans; build a waste-free world; and fix our climate.

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: November 2, 2021 - 9:08am

At current levels of greenhouse gas emissions, Earth could warm by 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) as early as 2030, the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change says in a landmark report.

"Global warming is likely to reach 1.5C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate," the report concluded with "high confidence."

Earth's surface has warmed one degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit)—enough to lift oceans and unleash a crescendo of deadly storms, floods and droughts—and is on track toward an unliveable 3C or 4C rise.

November 2, 2021 - 9:08am

Climate change caused overwhelmingly by human activity is the primary source of the unprecedented forest fires regularly ravaging the western United States, according to a study published Monday.

Fires destroyed an average of 13,500 square kilometers (5,200 square miles) per year in the American west between 2001 and 2018 — twice as much as between 1984-2000.

"It's happened so much faster than we previously anticipated," Rong Fu, who led the study published by the US National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), told the Los Angeles Times. — AFP

October 25, 2021 - 10:07am

Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Sunday declares the fight against climate change a "national security" priority and pledged to "facilitate" investments in green energy.

Days before the COP26 global climate summit in the British city of Glasgow — which Bennett is due to attend — the Israeli government announced the creation of "working groups" on climate change.

"The climate crisis is one of the major issues on the world agenda," Bennett says, calling it a "new National Security Interest" of Israel.

"It concerns the lives of all of us, and also the lives of our children and grandchildren," he adds. "We are obligated to deal with it in Israel; it is at the core of our being." — AFP

October 22, 2021 - 7:59am

US intelligence services said Thursday for the first time that climate change poses wide-ranging threats to the United States' national security and stability around the world.

More extreme weather "will increasingly exacerbate a number of risks to US national security interests, from physical impacts that could cascade into security challenges, to how countries respond to the climate challenge," the White House said in a summary of the intelligence reports.

The prediction was made in the first official assessment by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, or ODNI, which oversees the sprawling US intelligence apparatus. — AFP

October 14, 2021 - 3:02pm

Britain's Prince William on Thursday praises his father Charles for being "well ahead of the curve" on climate change, as the pair ramped up pressure ahead of the upcoming COP26 summit in Glasgow.

"He's had a really rough ride on that, and I think you know he's been proven to being well ahead of the curve, well beyond his time in warning about some of these dangers," William tells the BBC.

"But it shouldn't be that there's a third generation now coming along having to ramp it up even more," he adds. — AFP

October 14, 2021 - 8:07am

The US Treasury announces Wednesday it will study how climate change is affecting communities and households in the United States.

The department's Financial Literacy and Education Commission will look into "how households, communities, and the smallest businesses experience financial resilience in the face of climate change and climate transition," Treasury says in a statement.

It will also focus on "how to map climate-related financial risks, and identify which groups and regions will be most impacted," and also study the best ways to deal with the threats, with an emphasis "on historically disadvantaged people and regions." — AFP

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