The Prince of Wales has hailed the “inspiration and optimism” of the 2023 Earthshot Prize finalists unveiled in New York – as he admitted to taking a morning jog around Central Park.
William, who launched the £50 million award to encourage and support the fight against environmental challenges, said: “It’s gone better then I’d hoped”, but there was “still a lot of work to do”.
Speaking during a Q&A session at the Earthshot Prize Innovation Summit that launched the 15 innovative finalists, the future king said: “As we’ve seen today, the Earthshot winners and the finalists bring that inspiration and optimism.
“And I think we’ve got to hang onto optimism and hope because it is the biggest driver of change, it is the biggest driver of innovation.”
William said: “… an important part of the Prize’s designs and development is not just to provide the solutions, but it’s the factor to make people believe there is hope, and there are people out there doing incredible things that will have a massive impact on our futures.”
The Earthshot Prize aims to discover and scale up groundbreaking solutions to repair the planet and £1 million in prize money will be presented to the winners in five categories, or Earthshots – Protect and restore nature; Clean our air; Revive our oceans; Build a waste-free world; and Fix our climate.
Among the finalists is Sea Forest, from Australia, which has developed a seaweed-based livestock feed to reduce the planet warming methane emissions from cattle and sheep; while ENSO, a British based company, has created a more efficient electric vehicle tyre which reduces the harmful particles worn off during travel and extends the range.
When he first sat down William, who is coming to the end of a two-day visit to the Big Apple, was asked if he went running in Central Park and replied: “Yes, I decided to join the hordes of New Yorkers doing their morning routine.
“It’s wonderful waking up in New York on a sunny morning after the rain we had yesterday, beautiful getting some fresh air this morning.”
Another finalist is a project turning Freetown, the capital of the West African nation of Sierra Leone, into “Tree Town” by empowering communities to plant trees to create green spaces and combat soil erosion and landslides.
Gunnlaugur Erlendsson, founder and chief executive officer of ENSO, said a two-year trial with Royal Mail and parcel delivery firm DPD increased by 10% the distance travelled by vans and reduced tyre pollution by 35%.
He added: “We need to talk about tyres because tyres are problematic for the environment, not just in terms of air pollution, microplastics and waste, but the whole industry is incredibly carbon intensive.”
He went on to say: “I want to make absolutely clear we need electric vehicles to be successful because they tackle climate change, they do of course generate air pollution from tyres like all other vehicles.”
Former New York mayor and business news mogul Mike Bloomberg, a global adviser to Earthshot Prize winners, opened and closed the summit and fellow speakers included Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.
He told delegates: “Earthshot is not about yesterday, it is about today and about tomorrow because the climate crisis is no longer some far off menace – it’s here right now, and the effects are only getting worse.”
Mr Bloomberg added: “The best scientific studies tell us risks of more extreme weather are continuing to rise and so it’s up to us to rise to the occasion and do something about it and Prince William is helping the next generation lead the way by building on his father and grandmother’s dedication to environmental stewardship.”