Earthshot Prize 2021: Rewarding Innovation & Inspiring Environmental Action

earthshot prize 2021

The first ever Earthshot Prize ceremony took place on 17th October in what I thought was an inspiring night for environmental action.

Taking place in London, it was a star-studded affair, with royalty, footballers, international musicians and A-list celebrities all in attendance. In a step away from the red carpet, the celebs walked down the green carpet.

On the night there were five Earthshot Prizes up for grabs, all worth £1 million each. This money will be used by each of the winners to scale up their climate change innovation to make an even greater impact.

Let’s take a quick look at what Earthshot Prize is and where it has come from, before we see the winners and the solutions that claimed the five prizes.

What is Earthshot Prize?

Earthshot Prize is an ambitious initiative founded by Prince William and The Royal Foundation designed to incentivise the fixing of our planet through technology and innovation. The ceremony in London on 17th October was the very first Earthshot Prize.

It’s supported by a global alliance of organisations who share the same ambitions. Organisations such as Conservation International, Earthday.org, Greenpeace, National Geographic, WWF, and WRAP.

Running for the next 10 years, Earthshot will be rewarding the most innovative solutions to the world’s biggest environmental problems. The awards ceremony is attempting to inject optimism, positivity and also urgency into proceedings to spark more people into collective action.

There are five ‘Earthshots’ to be won:

  1. Revive our Oceans
  2. Clean our Air
  3. Build a Waste-Free World
  4. Fix our Climate
  5. Protect and Restore Nature

What does Earthshot mean?

No, it isn’t an eco-friendly drink found at the bar, the name Earthshot comes in reference to John F Kennedy’s ‘Moonshot’ ambition during the 1960s.

This of course was the mission to get the first man on the moon over the next decade, to which JFK announced America’s intentions on 25th May 1961. Just over eight years later, Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon on 20th July 1969.

Many of the global climate goals and emissions targets are tied into the date of 2030. With just over eight years until that date, I hope we can see as much progression on positive climate action, as JFK and America saw throughout the 60s.

So, who won the Earthshot prizes 2021?

From over 750 nominations, 15 finalists were shortlisted in the five different categories. Earthshot’s Expert Advisory Panel made recommendations and the five winners were finally chosen by the Earthshot Prize Council.

Protect and Restore Nature

Winner: The Republic of Costa Rica

costa rica earthshot prize
Source: earthshotprize.org

Costa Rica was once a place of severe deforestation and habitat destruction. However, a shift by the Ministry of Environment to valuing nature saw citizens being paid for protecting habitats and creating sustainable forests

The results have been incredible – large-scale restoration of local ecosystems, forests and fauna. In fact, the forests have doubled in size.

This has brought with it an uptick in eco-tourism, all of which has benefitted the country as a whole and led it to be labelled one of the most eco-friendly countries in the world.

Finalists: Pole Pole Foundation, Restor

Clean our Air

Winner: Takachar

takachar technology india earthshot prize
Source: earthshotprize.org

Takachar, a social enterprise founded by Vidyut Mohan in India, has developed a cheap, small-scale and portable technology able to convert agricultural waste into valuable biofuel and fertiliser.

The alternative to this is for farmers to burn off crop residues across their fields on huge scales, which results in severe air pollution. Takachar’s technology reduces smoke emissions by 98% and cut could significantly cut carbon dioxide emissions if scaled up.

Finalists: The Blue Map App, Vinisha Umashankar

Revive our Oceans

Winner: Coral Vita

coral vita project earthshot prize winner
Source: earthshotprize.org

It’s estimated that by 2050, ocean warming and acidification will impact 90% of coral reefs. The knock-on effects on marine life and humans will be disastrous.

Coral Vita grows coral on land to replant in oceans and restore reefs. With their methods, a single farm could supply coral for a whole nation at a much faster rate than traditional coral growth.

It’s a company founded by two best friends who ply their mission in the Bahamas. They also work with local communities and are helping to secure future environmental protection. 

Finalists: Pristine Seas, Living Seawalls

Build a Waste-Free World

Winner: The City of Milan Food Waste Hubs

city of milan food waste hubs earthshot prize winner
Source: earthshotprize.org

Milan’s Food Waste Hubs wants to half food waste by 2030. Each hub recovers food from supermarkets and private companies to give to NGOs who distribute it around the city.

The city’s three food hubs collect about 130 tonnes of waste per year, or 350kg a day! Milan’s blueprint can be scaled throughout the world to significantly reduce food waste.

Finalists: Sanergy, Wota Box

Fix our Climate

Winner: AEM Electrolyser

Vaitea Cowan, Cofounder, Head of Communications of ENAPTER earthshot prize
Source: earthshotprize.org

Enapter’s AEM Electrolyser is all about green hydrogen. The technology turns renewable electricity into emission-free hydrogen gas by splitting water molecules.

The resulting gas can fuel cars, planes, power industry and heat homes – all reducing the need for non-renewable energy.

Finalists: Reeddi Capsules, Solbazaar

Who is funding Earthshot prize?

The Earthshot Prize was founded by The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. The website states that it will be run by The Royal Foundation until the end of 2021, when it will then become its own entity.

Earthshot has partnered with a group of organisations and philanthropists to act as ‘strategic funding partners’ to the prizes. These partners include Aga Khan Development Network, Bezos Earth Fund, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Jack Ma Foundation and a few others.

A few names on their funding rostrum may raise some eyebrows – the founders of Amazon and Alibaba, the heir to Walmart, and a Dubai promo organisation. However, taken a purely face value, this money is being put to good use.

Will the Earthshot Prize work?

Earthshot represents a different way at trying to tackle the climate problem. It’s been glammed up and partnered with well-known celebrities of our time. Could this inspire real change throughout the world?

You may think it sounds a little jarring. Hollywood meets the environment. I did at first. But if this is what it takes to get at the forefront of global operations and actions, then I am behind it.

The Nobel prizes award achievements in science, literature, peace and economics, so why can’t Earthshot be the new award for environmental positive accomplishments?

Personally, I hope the £1 million that each of winning technologies received will outweigh any question marks around certain aspects of Earthshot.

Over the next 10 years, Earthshot Prizes could create significant positive change and inspire millions of others to take positive climate action. For this Prince William and his Foundation need commending.

The world needs real, urgent action now and I’m looking forward to seeing how Earthshot helps develop this. I, of course, will be covering it along the way.

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