Earthshot heroes

The inaugural Earthshot Prize was announced on 17 October, selecting the first-ever prize winners for five categories in the most prestigious environment awards in history.

21 October 2021


Announced at a glittering ceremony held at London’s Alexandra Palace, the Earthshot Prize is the most prestigious global environment prize in history, designed to incentivise change and help repair our planet over the next ten years.

Launched by Prince William and the Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2020, the Earthshot Prize takes inspiration from President John F Kennedy’s Moonshot, which united millions of people around an organising goal to put a human on the moon and catalysed the development of new technology in the 1960s.

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 to come.

The prize aims to turn the current pessimism surrounding environmental issues into optimism, by highlighting the ability of human ingenuity to bring about change, and inspiring collective action.


Each of the five winners will receive £1 million prize money and a global network of professional and technical support to scale their remarkable environmental solutions to repair our planet and accelerate their impact.

Prince William said he launched the prize with the aim of leaving a better planet for the sake of the next generation, including his three young children. He said he felt that the global conversation surrounding the issue “felt too complex, too negative, too overwhelming,” adding that he feared there was a “real risk people would switch off.”

Since 2018, William has worked with his closest advisers on a concept that would inject enthusiasm and optimism into the discussion.

“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,” said Prince William.

“People can achieve great things. The next ten years present us with one of our greatest tests – a decade of action to repair the earth.”

Prince William has concurrently published a book, Earthshot: How to Save Our Planet, covering the aims of the Earthshot Prize and inspire a decade of action to repair our planet.

The book was co-authored by Colin Butfield, former executive director at WWF, and multi-award-winning producer, director Jonnie Hughes, and has been released alongside a landmark five-part BBC One TV series, created by Butfield and Hughes.

Australian audiences can watch The Earthshot Prize: Repairing Our Planet from Sunday 24 October on Foxtel.

The five winners include cutting-edge technologists, innovators, an entire country, and a pioneering city. The five winners were selected by The Earthshot Prize Council and were chosen for their groundbreaking solutions to the greatest environmental challenges facing our planet and their ability to scale their impact globally in response to the urgent challenges we face.

The Earthshot Prize Winners for 2021 are as follows.

Restore and Protect Nature: Republic of Costa Rica

Forests are home to half our plants and animals and three-quarters of our birds. They suck carbon from the air and return the oxygen we breathe. Yet in 2020 more trees were felled than ever before, causing 10 percent of global warming.

In the 1990s, the vast forests of Costa Rica were devastated, half their former size. But the people of Costa Rica and their Ministry for Environment had a plan to save them. Its programs paid citizens to protect forests, plant trees, and restore ecosystems.

The results were extraordinary. Costa Rica’s forests doubled in size. Flora and fauna thrived which led to a boom in ecotourism, contributing $4 billion to the economy.

The government is now taking the approach to urban areas. It believes 30 percent of the world’s land and oceans could be protected this way too. Winning The Earthshot Prize would help it share knowledge and practices globally, especially in the Global South. Costa Rica’s motto is pura vida or pure life. Those words could soon echo across the world.


Clean Our Air: Takachar, India

Globally, we generate $120 billion of agricultural waste every year. What farmers cannot sell, they often burn, with catastrophic consequences for human health and the environment. The burning of agricultural waste causes air pollution that in some areas has reduced life expectancy by a decade.

This plays out every year in the fields surrounding New Delhi. Smoke from man-made infernos fills the air, with serious consequences for the health of locals. One of their number is Vidyut Mohan. His social enterprise, Takachar, is putting out the fire.

Takachar has developed a cheap, small-scale, portable technology that attaches to tractors in remote farms. The machine converts crop residues into sellable bio-products like fuel and fertilizer.

Takachar’s technology reduces smoke emissions by up to 98% which will help improve the air quality that currently reduces the affected population’s life expectancy by up to five years.

If scaled, it could cut a billion tonnes of carbon dioxide a year: a win for India’s farmers will be a win in the fight against climate change.

Revive Our Oceans: Coral Vita, Bahamas

Ocean warming and acidification are set to destroy over 90 percent of reefs by 2050, a death sentence for the quarter of marine life who need them to survive. It will be a disaster, too, for the billion human lives dependent on the benefits reefs provide.

A year after Sam Teicher and Gator Halpern launched Coral Vita’s first facility in Grand Bahama, Hurricane Dorian destroyed their coral farm. The experience brought home the extent of the climate emergency and strengthened their resolve to protect our reefs.

Coral Vita, which grows coral on land to replant in oceans, gives new life to dying ecosystems. Its methods grow coral up to 50 times faster than traditional methods and improves resilience to the impact of climate change.

As well as restoring reefs, Teicher and Halpern work with local communities, public officials, and private companies to improve education, create new job prospects, and build a model to inject more funding into environmental protection. Coral Vita gives new life not just to the ocean but to coastal economies as well.

With Coral Vita’s methods, a single farm could potentially supply coral for an entire nation, and they ultimately envision a network of such farms in every nation with reefs, kickstarting a restoration economy to preserve the ecosystems that sustain us all. Winning the prize will help them make that vision a reality.


Build A Waste-free World: City of Milan, Italy

A third of all food produced globally is wasted. Each discarded food item uses precious resources and heaps pressure on agriculture. The global food system generates between 25 to 30 percent of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, hundreds of millions suffer from food insecurity.

The City of Milan’s Food Waste Hubs tackle two problems in one. Launched in 2019 with the aim of halving waste by 2030, each hub recovers food mainly from supermarkets and companies’ canteens and gives it to NGOs who distribute it to the neediest citizens.

Milan is the first major city to enforce a city-wide food waste policy encompassing public agencies, food banks, charities, NGOs, universities and private businesses.

And it is working. Today the city has three Food Waste Hubs, each recovering about 130 tonnes of food per year or 350 kg per day, an estimated equivalent of 260,000 meals.

Milan has created a blueprint that can be scaled throughout the world. If more follow Milan’s lead, cities may become one of our greatest assets in humanity’s progress toward a waste free world.


Fix Our Climate: AEM Electrolyser, Thailand, Germany, Italy

Born in a climate-change-affected South Pacific Island, Vaitea Cowan co-founded Enapter to turn back the tide. Just three years on, its green hydrogen technology could change the way we power our world.

We have made huge advances in renewable energy. But we can still go further. With 30 percent of our energy already renewable, we need to focus on the 70 percent that remains: non-renewable energy that powers everything from industry to transport.

Enapter provides a clean alternative. Its AEM Electrolyser technology turns renewable electricity into emission-free hydrogen gas. Developed quicker and cheaper than once thought possible, the technology already fuels cars and planes, powers industry and heats homes.

This is just the start. Funding from winning the Earthshot Prize would help scale mass production, which is planned to begin in 2022, while growing the team faster and funding further research and development. By 2050, Enapter’s vision is to account for 10% of the world’s hydrogen generation.

Enapter shows us that, when faced with the greatest of challenges, we can turn back the tide.

The star-studded event was hosted by Clara Amfo and Dermot O’Leary, introduced by Prince William and featured Sir David Attenborough, who spoke about the importance of the Earthshot Prize and his optimism in our ability to rise to the greatest environmental challenges of our time.

The ceremony capped a ten-month global search with over 750 nominations from around the world.

Fifteen finalists were chosen through a rigorous selection process, supported by an Expert Advisory Panel, for their potential to positively impact people and the natural world and their ability to help us reach our Earthshot goals.

Each winner was awarded a beautiful, one-of-a-kind prize medal, designed by award-winning Dutch artist Christien Meindertsma, inspired by the iconic Earthrise photo taken of the earth from space from the Apollo 8 mission in 1968 and created from recycled materials.

The winners were connected to the awards ceremony by global broadcast, where The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were joined by Sir David Attenborough, Christiana Figueres, Dani Alves and a host of stars and performers including Ed Sheeran and Yemi Alade.

All 15 finalists will receive tailored support from the Earthshot Prize Global Alliance, an unrivalled network of philanthropies, NGOs, and private sector businesses around the world who will help scale their solutions.

All 2021 finalists will meet in person at Glasgow Climate Change Conference, known as COP26 UN, to be held from 31 October to 12 November.

The Awards Ceremony concluded by revealing the Earthshot Prize will travel to the United States of America in 2022. Nominations for the 2022 Prize will open in January 2022.



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