Prince William claimed this decade is the ‘most consequential period in history’ as he urged everyone to take action against climate change and help repair the planet in a virtual TED Talk to promote his new Earthshot Prize.
The Duke of Cambridge, 38, said the world’s response to the global Covid-19 pandemic has proved what can be achieved when those in positions of power ‘come together and decide to act’.
Speaking during Countdown – the first free and virtual TED Conference devoted entirely to championing and accelerating solutions to the climate crisis – father-of-three William said failing to take action now means the damage humans have done to the planet will be ‘irreversible’.
Stood beneath a magnificent oak tree in the grounds of Windsor Castle, where the talk was recorded, the Duke said now is the time for each one of us to ‘show leadership’.
The Duke of Cambridge, 38, said the world’s response to the global Covid-19 pandemic has proved what can be achieved when those in positions of power ‘come together and decide to act’
‘This oak has stood here for centuries. But never has it faced a decade like this. We start this new decade knowing that it is the most consequential period in history,’ he said.
‘The science is irrefutable. If we do not act in this decade, the damage that we have done will be irreversible and the effects felt not just by future generations, but by all of us alive today.
‘And what’s more, this damage will not be felt equally by everyone. It is the most vulnerable, those with the fewest resources, and those who have done the least to cause climate change, who will be impacted the most.
‘These stark facts are terrifying. How can we hope to fix such massive, intractable problems? It may seem overwhelming. But it is possible.’
William highlighted how, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, hospitals have been built overnight and billions of pounds have been poured into searching for a vaccine and better treatments.
Stood beneath a magnificent oak tree in the grounds of Windsor Castle, where the talk was recorded, the Duke said now is the time for each one of us to ‘show leadership’
‘We’ve been inspired by heroes emerging in every community across the world,’ he added.
‘Young people no longer believe that change is too difficult. They’ve witnessed the world turn on its head. They believe that the climate crisis and the threat to our biodiversity deserves our full attention and ambition. And they’re right.’
William revealed the inspiration behind the name for his new Earthshot Prize initiative, which has been likened to a green Nobel Prize and is the most prestigious global environment prize in history.
The ambitious decade-long project will see a total of 50 environmental pioneers each awarded a £1million prize for their work tackling major problems across climate and energy, nature and biodiversity, oceans, air pollution and fresh water.
William revealed the inspiration behind the name for his new Earthshot Prize initiative, which has been likened to a green Nobel Prize and is the most prestigious global environment prize in history
Windsor’s great oak has cast its spell of 39 monarchs across nine centuries since it was a sapling
The £50million project is funded by a network of philanthropic organisations and private companies and individuals including Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Jack Ma Foundation and US billionaire Marc Benioff and his wife, Lynne.
William said he has ‘long been inspired’ by President John F Kennedy’s 1961 mission to put a man on the moon within a decade – which he named the moonshot.
Prince William’s TED Talk in its entirety
Growing up in my family gives you a certain sense of history. I’m simply the latest in a line that can be traced back generations.
This oak tree is close to Windsor Castle, which has been home to my family for over 900 years. Thirty nine monarchs have lived here and enjoyed these beautiful surroundings. I’ve walked here many times myself and it always amazes me that some of the trees planted here – living organisms dependent on soil, rain and sunlight – were here as they laid the first stones of Windsor Castle.
That makes some of the oaks here almost a thousand years old. These trees germinated during the reign of William the Conqueror in 1066 – from a simple acorn like this. By the time that Henry VIII lived here, they had grown into mature, impressive giants. And amazingly, some of those very same trees still survive here today.
They’re a bit gnarled and hollowed out, but they’re still very much alive. While these oaks have been growing, around 35 billion people have lived their lives on our planet. That’s 35 billion lifetimes worth of hope, love, fear and dreams.
In that time, humankind has invented air travel, vaccines and computers. We’ve explored every part of the globe, sequenced the human genome and even escaped Earth’s atmosphere. Our speed of innovation has been incredible.
But so too has the acceleration of our impact. Over my grandmother’s lifetime, the last 90 years or so, our impact has accelerated so fast that our climate, oceans, air, nature and all that depends on them are in peril.
This oak has stood here for centuries. But never has it faced a decade like this. We start this new decade knowing that it is the most consequential period in history.
The science is irrefutable. If we do not act in this decade, the damage that we have done will be irreversible and the effects felt not just by future generations, but by all of us alive today. And what’s more, this damage will not be felt equally by everyone. It is the most vulnerable, those with the fewest resources, and those who have done the least to cause climate change, who will be impacted the most.
These stark facts are terrifying. How can we hope to fix such massive, intractable problems? It may seem overwhelming. But it is possible.
Humans have an extraordinary capacity to set goals and strive to achieve them. I’ve long been inspired by President John F Kennedy’s 1961 mission to put a man on the moon within a decade – he named it the moonshot.
It seemed crazy. We had only just launched the first satellite. Putting a man on the moon, that quickly, seemed impossible. But this simple challenge encompassed so much. He called it a goal to ‘organise and measure the best of our energies and skills’. In taking that giant leap for mankind, the team behind the moonshot united millions of people around the world in awe that this crazy ambition wasn’t so crazy after all. And along the way, it helped the invention of breathing equipment, CAT scanners and solar panels.
But now, rather than a moonshot for this decade – we need Earthshots. We must harness that same spirit of human ingenuity and purpose and turn it with laser sharp focus and urgency on the most pressing challenge we have ever faced – repairing our planet.
The shared goals for our generation are clear. Together we must protect and restore nature, clean our air, revive our oceans, build a waste-free world and fix our climate…. And we must strive to do all of this in a decade.
If we achieve these goals, by 2030 our lives won’t be worse, and we won’t have to sacrifice everything we enjoy. Instead, the way we live will be healthier, cleaner, smarter and better for all of us.
The global response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the funds flowing into the economic recovery, demonstrate how much can be achieved when those in positions of power come together and decide to act.
We’ve built hospitals overnight. Re-purposed factories. Poured billions into the search for a vaccine and better treatments. And we’ve been inspired by heroes emerging in every community across the world.
Young people no longer believe that change is too difficult. They’ve witnessed the world turn on its head. They believe that the climate crisis and the threat to our biodiversity deserves our full attention and ambition. And they’re right.
So now is the time for each one of us to show leadership. Whether you’re a farmer in the US, a tech owner in China, a politician in Kenya, a banker in Britain, a fisherman in the Maldives, a community leader in Brazil, or a student in India. Every single one of us has a role to play in harnessing whatever opportunity we have.
I’m committed to using the unique position that I have to help set those Earthshot goals and reward people, across every sector of society and in every part of the world, who do their bit to help achieve them.
Some people are motivated to act by a crisis. But for many, the incentive to act only comes when they believe that change is possible. That it isn’t a lost cause. If people really believe that these challenges – these Earthshots – are possible, just imagine all the potential we will unleash!
I’m determined to both start and end this decade as an optimist. Whilst our generation represents just a blip in the lifetime of these magnificent oaks, we have the power and potential to ensure that they, and all life on earth, thrive for another thousand years and more. But only if we now unleash the greatest talents of our generation to repair our planet. We have no choice but to succeed. Thank you.
‘It seemed crazy,’ he explained. ‘We had only just launched the first satellite. Putting a man on the moon, that quickly, seemed impossible. But this simple challenge encompassed so much.
‘He called it a goal to “organise and measure the best of our energies and skills”. In taking that giant leap for mankind, the team behind the moonshot united millions of people around the world in awe that this crazy ambition wasn’t so crazy after all. And along the way, it helped the invention of breathing equipment, CAT scanners and solar panels.
‘But now, rather than a moonshot for this decade – we need Earthshots. We must harness that same spirit of human ingenuity and purpose and turn it with laser sharp focus and urgency on the most pressing challenge we have ever faced – repairing our planet.
‘The shared goals for our generation are clear. Together we must protect and restore nature, clean our air, revive our oceans, build a waste-free world and fix our climate…. And we must strive to do all of this in a decade.
‘If we achieve these goals, by 2030 our lives won’t be worse, and we won’t have to sacrifice everything we enjoy. Instead, the way we live will be healthier, cleaner, smarter and better for all of us.’
The prince concluded by saying he is determined to start and end this decade as an ‘optimist’.
Referencing the 900-year-old trees surrounding him in the ground of Windsor, he went on: ‘Whilst our generation represents just a blip in the lifetime of these magnificent oaks, we have the power and potential to ensure that they, and all life on earth, thrive for another thousand years and more.
‘But only if we now unleash the greatest talents of our generation to repair our planet. We have no choice but to succeed.’
The Earthshot Prize aims to find new solutions that work on every level, have a positive effect on environmental change and improve living standards globally, particularly for communities who are most at risk from climate change.
Prizes could be awarded to a wide range of individuals, teams or collaborations – scientists, activists, economists, community projects, leaders, governments, banks, businesses, cities, and countries – anyone whose workable solutions make a substantial contribution to achieving the Earthshots.
The five Earthshots are: Protect and restore nature, Clean our air, revive our oceans, build a waste-free world, and fix our climate.
Each Earthshot is underpinned by scientifically agreed targets – including the UN Sustainable Development Goals and other internationally recognised measures to help repair our planet.
Together, they form a unique set of challenges rooted in science, which aim to generate new ways of thinking, as well as new technologies, systems, policies and solutions.
By bringing these five critical issues together, The Earthshot Prize recognises the interconnectivity between environmental challenges and the urgent need to tackle them together.
This week William unveiled his team of high-profile environmental activists, philanthropic leaders and A-listers that are members of The Earthshot Prize Council.
The Earthshot Prize Council is a list of influential individuals from a wide range of different sectors, all of whom are committed to championing positive action in the environmental space.
The Duke will be joined on the team by celebrities and royalty including Queen Rania Al Abdullah, popstar Shakira and actor Cate Blanchett on the council.
In a video clip meeting with the council, the royal joked: ‘I’m a very boring coach on the corner at the moment, looking for some very skillful players to help me beat the opposition and we’ve got a really wonderful team put together on the council.’
Others on the council include athletes, professional footballer Dani Alves and Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer and environmentalist Yao Ming, as well as environmental activists including Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim and Christiana Figueres.
In an Instagram post shared on the Kensington Royal page, the royal posted: ‘The @Earthshotprize council is a diverse, broad range of people from all around the world who I’ve been talking to over the last few weeks and months.
‘We’ve got a really fantastic council together.’
In the coming months, further members of The Earthshot Prize Council will be announced as the global coalition supporting the Prize expands.
Every year from 2021 until 2030, The Earthshot Prize Council will award The Earthshot Prize to five winners, one per Earthshot.
They will be supported by a distinguished panel of experts will support the judging process, making recommendations to the Prize Council who will select the final winners.
Speaking after her announcement on the council, Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah said: ‘Seen from outer space, our planet is borderless; the same can be said for the greatest challenges we face today.
‘For too long, we have neglected our shared world, and today we are reaping the shared consequences. None of us can opt out of the damaging ramifications of climate change, pollution, or resource depletion.
‘And while the situation is urgent, it is not hopeless. When our backs are against the wall, humanity has a knack for coming together to find innovative solutions.
‘We push back and power through. I am hopeful that platforms such as the Earthshot Prize will help us do just that.’
Meanwhile Shakira said: ‘Your children, my children – they have to find ways to reduce carbon emissions, to repair our oceans, to clean the air.
So we need young minds to be informed and invested, which is why education is so important. But we can’t just stand still.
‘We have to lead the way and we have to do it now. I know it’s ambitious and I know there will be so many challenges along the way but I also know there will be so many who will rise to the occasion.’
In an interview with CNN this week, William said that Prince Charles, 71, and the Duke of Edinburgh, 99, had inspired his interest in the natural world.
Prince William has launched the most prestigious global environment prize in history, as the five challenges at the heart of The Earthshot Prize are unveiled. Pictured, with Sir David Attenborough
He said: ‘My grandfather started doing stuff with conservation a long time ago, WWF, my father was ahead of his time talking about climate change.
‘I don’t want to be ahead of my time because we are already too late. Now is the time to act.
‘My children look to me and ask me lot of questions, they love the natural world.
‘And they want to know answers and want to know why there is so much negativity and why is everyone so worried and how bad can it get?
‘And I want to turn round to them and say, “we have solutions, we can find a way through this”.
Prince William said his father Charles was ‘ahead of his time’ as he launched the most prestigious global environment prize in history
‘Human ingenuity and human spirit and innovation is huge. We put a man on the moon, we can do this.
‘Going through Covid has been horrendous for people and we have lost a lot of people, very sadly. I think what Covid has taught us is that this is the first difficult time that my generation and younger generations have faced.
‘Obviously older generations have been through the war and there is nothing like that. It was truly horrendous. But this has been a tricky time for everyone.
‘If there is one ray of light that can come out of this is that people have been outside more, they have experienced nature, they have heard the birds because the aeroplanes have been less and the roads have been calmer.
Prince William also unveiled the team of A-listers and environmental activists who will sit alongside him on the Earthshot Prize council today (pictured, clockwise from top left, Shakira, Sir David Attenborough, Indra Nooyi, Dani Alves, Christiana Figueres, Naoko Yamazaki, Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah, Cate Blanchett, Yao Ming, Jack Ma, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and Prijnce William)
‘And I hope people at the moment connect and realise how special the green and natural world around them is. I think if we can find the money, and the collaboration and the willpower to tackle Covid like we have done, we can do this for the environment as well.’
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.
It is the biggest initiative to date from both Prince William and The Royal Foundation and was first introduced on 31st December 2019.
Nominations will open on 1st November, with over 100 nominating partners from across the world being invited to submit nominations of those individuals, communities, businesses and organisations who could win The Earthshot Prize.
Who will join Prince William on the Earthshot Prize Council?
Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah, Jordan
Queen Rania of Al Abdullah is the queen consort of Jordan and is known for her humanitarian focus and for using her platform to advocate for women’s right and issues of sustainability.
Cate Blanchett – actor, producer and humanitarian, Australia
Cate Blanchett is an Oscar winning actress, with roles in blockbusters including ‘Elizabeth’, ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’, ‘The Aviator’ and as Hela in ‘Thor: Ragnorak’.
She is also an avid environmental campaigner, having been inspired to get involved by Al Gore, and has worked tirelessly for causes both in her native Australia and around the globe.
She is an ambassador for Australian Conservation Foundation and visited politicians and people in Queensland to raise awareness of climate issues.
Christiana Figueres – Former UN climate chief, responsible for the landmark Paris Agreement on Climate Change (Costa Rica)
Christiana Figueres is a diplomat with experience in high level national and international policy and multilateral negotiations. She was appointed Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in July 2010, six months after the COP15 failed in Copenhagen.
During the next six years she worked to rebuild the global climate change negotiating process, leading to the 2015 Paris agreement, widely recognized as a historical achievement.
Dani Alves – professional footballer (Brazil)
Dani Alves is a professional footballer for Brazil. Speaking upon being chosen for the council, he said: ‘It’s the most important power in the world – nature. If you give it good things then nature gives good things back to you.
‘We’re going to make a good team.’
Sir David Attenborough – broadcaster and natural historian (UK)
Sir David Frederick Attenborough is an English broadcaster and natural historian. He is best known for writing and presenting and is considered a national treasure in the UK.
Sir David has become more vocal in his support of environmental causes over the last two decades, saying: ‘I really do think things are about to start to move, and this sort of idea could be the spark that is really going to give it the lift and the impetus to develop into something huge.
‘It’s a great source of hope, and I hope it spreads around the world.”
Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim – environmental activist (Chad)
Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim is an environmental activist and geographer. She is the Coordinator of the Association of Peul Women and Autochthonous Peoples of Chad (AFPAT) and served as the co-director of the pavilion of the World Indigenous Peoples’ Initiative and Pavilion at COP21, COP22 and COP23.
Indra Nooyi – business executive and former Chairman & CEO of PepsiCo (US & India)
Indra Nooyi is an Indian-American business executive and former chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) of PepsiCo, who is consistently ranked as amoung the top 100 most powerful women in the world.
In 2017, she was ranked the 2nd most powerful woman once more on the Forbes list of The 19 Most Powerful Women in Business.
She serves on the boards for Amazon and the International Cricket Council.
Jack Ma – philanthropist, entrepreneur and UNSDG Advocate (China)
Jack Ma is a Chinese business magnate, investor and philanthropist, as well as the co-founder and former executive chairman of Alibaba Group, a multinational technology conglomerate.
Ma is a global ambassador for Chinese business and is often listed as one of the world’s most powerful people, with Forbes ranking him 21st on its “World’s Most Powerful People” list.
As of 29 July 2020, with a fortune of $48.2 billion, Ma is the second-wealthiest person in China and one of the wealthiest people in the world.
Naoko Yamazaki – former astronaut onboard the International Space Station (Japan)
Naoko Yamazaki is a former Japanese astronaut and the second Japanese woman to fly in space.
She revealed: ‘It’s been more than half a century since human beings reached space and even the moon. However, the Earth is our only home planet.
‘When I saw the International Space Station, I saw it as a symbol of international collaboration. If we all put our forces together for a common goal, we can make a great achievement.”
Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala – economist and international development expert (Nigeria)
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is a Nigerian-born economist and international development expert. She sits on the Boards of Standard Chartered Bank, Twitter, Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), and the African Risk Capacity (ARC)
Shakira – singer and philanthropist (Colombia)
Shakira is a Colombian singer, songwriter, record producer, dancer, actress, and philanthropist. She is one of 17 advocates for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Yao Ming – Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer and environmentalist (China)
Yao Ming is a Chinese basketball executive and former professional player. He was also named the UN Environment Programme’s first-ever Environmental Champion.
He pledged to give up eating shark’s fin soup, a Chinese delicacy, in association with a WildAid campaign to promote wildlife protection.
Nominators will include the Global Alliance but also academic and non-profit institutions from across the world who have been selected for their ability to identify the most impactful solutions to the Earthshots.
The 5-stage prize process to select a winner for each Earthshot has been designed in partnership with the Centre for Public Impact and a range of international experts.
Nominations will be screened as part of an independent assessment process run by Deloitte, the implementation partner.
A distinguished panel of experts will support the judging process, making recommendations to the Prize Council who will select the final winners.
Among the celebrities who form a part of the panel who will decide the winners of the Earthshot Prize is A-list actress Cate Blanchett (pictured with Prince William)
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.
After the awards, each winner will receive a global platform and prestigious profile, with their stories being showcased over the decade and the ambition that their solutions lead to mass adoption, replication and scaling.
The £1 million in prize money will support environmental and conservation projects that are agreed with the winners.
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.
How is the Earthshot Prize funded?
The prize will be funded by a network of organisations and private philanthropists from around the world.
The first six Global Alliance Founding Partners have been named today with more partners to be announced over the coming months.
The Jack Ma Foundation: Billionaire Alibaba founder Jack Ma, China’s richest man, set up a foundation to on improving education, the environment and public health.
Ma is a divisive character and made headlines last year over comments saying employees should be prepared to work 12 hours a day, six days a week.
He also urged employees to have more sex in a bid to have a better work-life balance.
Self-made Mr Ma, 55, is worth $42.8billion (£32.9billion) and was the wealthiest man in China in 2019, according to Forbes.
Earlier this year the foundation donated 100million yuan (£11million, $14.4million) to help scientists develop the vaccine for Covid-19.
Bloomberg Philanthropies: Founded by billionaire Mike Bloomberg, the $7 billion Bloomberg Philanthropies focuses its resources on five areas: the environment, public health, the arts, government innovation and education.
The foundation has spent more than has spent more than $100 million on climate initiatives and favours projects that align with his political views.
Bloomberg, who ran an unsuccessful campaign to be the Democratic nomineee for US president, is a committed environmentalist and has advocated policy to fight climate change since he was mayor of New York City.
Marc and Lynne Benioff: A millionaire by 25, Marc Benioff was the youngest ever vice-president of software giant Oracle.
Today, Mr Benioff, 55, is worth £5.5 billion thanks to the success of the company he founded shortly after that encounter, Salesforce, which employs 50,000 people around the globe including more than 1,500 in the UK.
His firm is the world leader in ‘customer relationship management software’ which uses the cloud to help businesses organise information about their customers and has an annual revenue of £13 billion.
He is also one of the world’s greatest philanthropists thanks to an encounter with an Indian guru who encouraged him to do more for others.
The tech tycoon donated £1 million of his fortune to support the Mail Force Charity, set up by a consortium led by the Daily Mail, along with another £1 million from Salesforce.
In total he has spent around £20 million sourcing and supplying PPE to hospitals around the world.
The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation: Paul G. Allen, who died last year, founded the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation with his sister Jody to give away the majority of the $20 billion-plus fortune he accumulated as Microsoft co-founder, technology investor, real estate magnate and NFL and NBA team owner.
The foundation supports a global portfolio of frontline partners working to preserve ocean health, protect wildlife, combat climate change, and strengthen communities.
In June it announced two contributions to support people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in Washington state, adding up to $2.2 million.
DP World in partnership with Dubai EXPO 2020: DP World, founded by Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, is an Emirati multinational logistics company based in Dubai.
The only commercial company on the list, DP World has been recognised for its work on the environment and sustainability.
The Aga Khan Development Network: A network of private, non-denominational development agencies founded by the Aga Khan. Their work addresses a range of issues. Environmental projects include renewable energy in Uganda, clean energy in central Asia and a tree-planting project in Pakistan.
The current Aga Khan enjoys a close relationship with the Royal Family. Prince William and Kate Middleton visited the Aga Khan centre in October 2019.