William and Catherine, the Prince and Princess of Wales, arrived in Boston on Wednesday for their first visit to the United States in eight years. At the center of their trip is the Earthshot Prize, founded by William in 2020 to support entrepreneurs that are developing breakthrough climate solutions.
The name of the prize is a nod to President John F. Kennedy’s 1962 “moonshot” speech rallying public support for the effort to land American astronauts on the moon within the decade.
The term has endured as a metaphor for goals so ambitious that they require monumental commitments of brainpower and money. In recent years, the urgency of the climate challenge has led some to question whether a climate change “moonshot” could be what’s needed to avert catastrophe in the future.
The Earthshot Prize answers that question with a emphatic yes, and brings a pool of nearly $60 million to be disbursed by the end of the decade.
What are the five categories?
The Earthshot Prize, an independent charity that was recently broken off from William and Catherine’s Royal Foundation, awards 1 million British pounds, or about $1.2 million, to each of five winners, one in each of the prize categories: nature conservation and protection, air quality, ocean revival, waste-free living and climate action.
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This year, there were more than 1,000 nominations from 80 countries. Submissions were reviewed by an expert panel of scientists, policymakers and academics, according to the organization’s website.
A high-profile group of judges, led by William, selects the winners from a group of three finalists in each category. That panel includes the naturalist David Attenborough, the actress Cate Blanchett, the singer Shakira, Queen Rania of Jordan and the businessman Jack Ma.
The awards ceremony, which will take place on Friday in Boston at the MGM Music Hall at Fenway, will feature performances by Annie Lennox, Billie Eilish, Ellie Goulding and the R&B duo Chloe x Halle.
Who are the finalists?
The 15 finalists for 2022 come from more than ten countries, among them the United States, Britain, the Netherlands, China and Kenya.
A few are grass-roots groups emphasizing local knowledge and education. In the forests of the Kinabatangan floodplain in Malaysian Borneo, a wildlife research group works with the Orang Sungai Indigenous community to monitor biodiversity. In Queensland, Australia, another group trains Indigenous women to become wildlife rangers.
Other finalists have developed sustainable technologies, including an all-electric battery system designed to replace diesel generators on construction sites, a “greenhouse-in-a-box” kit for small farmers in India, and low-pollution stoves that are already in use by 200,000 people in Kenya.
Two finalists use seaweed: one that makes sustainable containers to replace single-use plastic, and another that works on seeding underwater ecosystems.
The circular economy concept, which aims to design products with reuse in mind, was a prominent theme this year. For example, one start-up based in India, Phool, repurposes the flowers from temples that are cast into the Ganges River into incense sticks and leather substitutes. The pesticides coating the flowers would otherwise continue contaminating the river, which is one of the world’s most polluted.
Who were last year’s winners?
Last year, Costa Rica won in the protecting and restoring nature category for a nationwide system that reversed deforestation by paying citizens to nurture forests. The category as a whole highlights efforts to curb the global collapse of biodiversity.
In the air quality category, Takachar, a biomass company based in India, took top honors for its efforts to combat air pollution from agricultural burning. It developed a portable technology that attaches to tractors and turns crop waste into fuel and fertilizer.
For ocean revival, Coral Vita, a company that works to restore our world’s dying and damaged reef, won for growing resilient corals in farms and transplanting them into threatened reef ecosystems in the Bahamas. The category addresses warming ocean temperatures, pollution and harmful fishing practices.
The city of Milan won in the waste-free living category for its Food Waste Hubs, which recover unsold food from supermarkets and businesses and redistributes it through charities and food banks. Worldwide, food waste accounts for 8 to 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.
In theclimate category, which highlights efforts to lower emissions, Enapter, a German energy technology company, won for a compact electrolyzer, now sold in 50 countries, that produces hydrogen fuel from water.