The Duke of Cambridge says there are just 10 years “to fundamentally fix our planet” and expressed hope his environmental Earthshot Prize will “drive a decade of change”.
William sees his ambitious project as a means to turnaround pessimism in the planet’s future with global recognition and £50 million in prize money for ideas and technologies that safeguard the environment.
The duke told Sky News: “According to the experts, it really is the point of no return. We have 10 years to fundamentally fix our planet.”
It is likely to be seen as William’s career-defining project, like his father’s Prince’s Trust or grandfather’s Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme, and reflects his growing confidence.
William told Sky News: “This is me putting my stamp on what I can do in my position to really galvanise and increase the interest and tackle some of these issues and drive a decade of change to help repair the planet.”
He said the same resources used to tackle coronavirus should be devoted to saving the natural world, saying: “We found over £190 billion … to fix and help the recovery through Covid. We can do the same for the environment.”
And he was prepared to go to places that felt “uncomfortable” or made others feel the same to “make a difference”.
Every year from 2021 until the end of the decade, winners in five categories will each receive £1 million after being picked by a judging panel of William and leading figures.
Speaking about the project created with his Royal Foundation, William said: “We very much felt that an optimistic prize, to try and turn the narrative around the pessimism and the negativity around the climate was the best way forward to try and find some solutions.
“I think, with all things in life, if you are willing to make a difference you have to put yourself out there, and you have to commit yourself and be determined and maybe go (to) places that you might feel uncomfortable, other people might feel uncomfortable, but really for me the prize is about bringing people together.”
The Earthshot Prize takes its inspiration from the Apollo moon landings, nicknamed Moonshot, which helped advance mankind’s technological achievements, and features five Earthshots which organisers say if achieved by 2030 would improve life for all.
The prize money will support environmental and conservation projects agreed with the winners, who could be individuals, a group of scientists or activists, businesses, governments and even a city or country.
They will be recognised for new ideas, technologies, policies or solutions which tackle one of the five Earthshots: Protect and restore nature, Clean our air, Revive our oceans, Build a waste-free world, and Fix our climate.
William said: “We very much hope that even if we can’t necessarily change the world in ten years’ time just from the prize alone, what we do hope is that just like the Moonshot landings where they developed cat scanners, X-ray machines, breathing apparatus, stuff like that I think has been really, really important to come out of that.
“So we hope that environmentally we can produce some really big solutions even if we can’t necessarily ourselves, just as the prize, change everything in ten years.”
William also spoke about how the dire threat to the natural world has affected his seven-year-old son George.
The duke admitted the young royal was left so saddened by a Sir David Attenborough documentary about extinction, he told his father “I don’t want to watch this anymore”.
The £50 million prize fund will be provided by the project’s global alliance founding partners – a group which includes the philanthropic bodies of billionaires like Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.