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Prince William announces his first 15 Earthshot Prize finalists

Prince William has announced the first 15 finalists of his £50million Earthshot Prize, which aims to encourage the world's greatest problem-solvers to find answers to the planet's biggest environment problems.

The finalists include a 14-year-old student who proposes using solar energy to replace charcoal to power millions of roadside ironing carts in India; a land-based coral farm in the Bahamas to restore dying coral reefs; a community project in Congo devoted to protecting gorillas; and a Kenyan enterprise that turns organic waste into fertiliser and insect protein for farmers.

Five winners will be chosen next month from the 15 finalists, and each will receive a grant worth £1million pounds. In addition, 14 global companies and brands, including Microsoft, Unilever, Ikea and Walmart, have agreed to support and scale the ideas developed by the finalists.

The Duke of Cambridge, 39, announced the finalists - which also included the city of Milan's food waste hubs - in a YouTube clip today, adding that 'the ambition, quality and range of [the 700 nominations] have been amazing'. 

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Prince William (pictured) has announced the first finalists of his multi-million-pound environmental prize

Five winners will be chosen next month from the 15 finalists (pictured is one of them), and each will receive a grant worth £1million pounds

For the protect and restore nature category, the finalists were Pole Pole Foundation, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of Costa Rica and Restor, from Switzerland.

Clean our air finalists included Blue Map App, from China, Takachar and Vinisha Umashankar, both of India.

The 15 Earthshot Prize finalists

Protect and restore nature finalists

Clean our air finalists 

Revive our oceans finalists

Build a waste free world finalists

Fix our climate finalists

Revive our oceans finalists were Coral Vita, from The Bahamas, Australia’s Living seawalls and Pristine seas, of the US.

Finalists for Build a waste free world were the city of Milan food waste hubs, Sanergy, from Kenya, and Japan’s Wota Box.

Finally, Fix our climate finalists included AEM Electrolyser, based in Thailand, Germany and Italy, Reeddi capsules, from Nigeria, and Bangladesh’s Solbazaar.

The five winners, who will collect £1million each, will be announced on October 17.

‘When we launched the prize last year, our ambition was to find the most innovative solutions to the world's greatest environmental challenges,’ William said in a pre-recorded video announcing the finalists.

He said the award received over 700 nominations this year, and that the ambition and quality of the submissions ‘should fill us all with optimism and hope that our goals for this decisive decade are achievable.’

William and his charity, The Royal Foundation, launched the Earthshot Prize last year and it is billed as the most prestigious of its kind, with a £50million prize pot to be awarded to five winners every year until 2030.

One of the shortlisted candidates is Delhi-based Vidyut Mohan, who has developed a portable technology that rapidly converts crop residues that would otherwise be burned into bio-products like fuel and fertilizer.

Mohan, 30, said he was inspired to act after seeing the skies of his hometown engulfed with black smog from burnt agricultural and forest waste, putting his own family's health at risk.

"It really felt nice that the problem that we are working on and the mission that we are working on is now going to be projected on a global scale and the problem is going to be highlighted," he said.

Teenager Vinisha Umashankar, also from India, wants to use solar energy to replace charcoal to power the millions of ironing carts used by street vendors pressing clothes daily on the roadside.

‘Whatever suited people in the past doesn't suit the present generation anymore, and it doesn't suit our world situation anymore either,’ said Umashankar, 14.

The award is the most ambitious project yet launched by William, who has long supported conservation charities in Africa and led work to tackle illegal wildlife trafficking.

The winners will be chosen by a committee including veteran broadcaster David Attenborough, actor Cate Blanchett and World Trade Organization director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

In an introduction to a book about the prize, Earthshot: How to Save our Planet, the prince urged humanity 'not to give up' in the face of 'terrifying' and 'exponential' climate change.

'Humans have taken too many fish from the sea. We have cleared too many trees, burnt too much fossil fuel, and produced too much waste,' William wrote. 'The damage we are doing is no longer incremental but exponential, and we are fast reaching a tipping point.' 

In addition, 14 global companies and brands, including Microsoft, Unilever, Ikea and Walmart, have agreed to support and scale the ideas developed by the finalists (pictured is another one of the finalists)

The finalists include a 14-year-old student (pictured) who proposes using solar energy to replace charcoal to power millions of roadside ironing carts in India

The prince said he had come up with the idea for Earthshot following a visit to Namibia in 2018 and then being 'hit by a wave of global pessimism' at climate change talks, which he feared could foster a growing sense of despondency.

'The headlines were dominated by a sense that world leaders were not moving fast enough,' he said. 'There was widespread finger pointing and political and geographical division. To those of us following at home, it wasn't an inspiring sight.'

He continued: 'It seemed to me, and this is backed up by my team's research, that there was a real risk that people would switch off; that they would feel so despondent, so fearful and so powerless, there was a risk that any real hope of progress would come to a halt. 

'You could summarise this mood with a simple equation: urgency + pessimism = despondency.'

The Duke of Cambridge, 39, announced the finalists (pictured) in a YouTube clip today, adding that 'the ambition, quality and range of [the 700 nominations] have been amazing'

But he added: 'I strongly believe that change is possible, when you put your mind to it. I started thinking about what to do to change the equation to something else: urgency + optimism = action.' 

William said he was also inspired by his father Prince Charles and late grandfather Prince Philip, who both argued for decades about the importance of conservation and the impact of climate change.

The prize deliberately echoes the ambitious 'Moonshot' project of former U.S. President John F. Kennedy's and his goal for the 1969 moon landings.

He made the remarks in the foreword to a new book (above) accompanying his landmark £50million Earthshot Prize

'It was an incredible demonstration of our talent for making the impossible possible,' William said. 'I wanted to recapture Kennedy's Moonshot spirit of human ingenuity, purpose and optimism, and turn it with laser-sharp focus and urgency on to the most pressing challenge of our time - repairing our planet.' 

Every year from 2021 until the end of the decade, winners in five categories will each receive £1million and support from a range of experts after being picked by a judging panel consisting of William and leading figures, including Sir David Attenborough.

Each offers £1million in prize money which will support environmental and conservation projects agreed with the winners, who could be individuals, a group of scientists or activists, businesses, governments and even a city or country.

They will be recognised for new ideas, technologies, policies or solutions which tackle one of the five Earthshots: Protect and restore nature; Clean our air, Revive our oceans; Build a waste-free world; and Fix our climate. 

Commenting on the inspiration behind the project, William writes of how the seeds were sown during a visit to Namibia (pictured), Tanzania and Kenya in autumn 2018 when he met frontline conservation workers and those from local communities

Prince William's inaugural £50million Earthshot Prize Awards will be held at Alexandra Palace (pictured)   and broadcast internationally from London on October 17 

The prize is likely to be seen as William's career-defining project, like his father's Prince's Trust or grandfather's Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme, and reflects his growing confidence on the world stage.

The five winners will be unveiled on October 17 in a unique ceremony at Alexandra Palace in London.

Earthshot: How to Save our Planet is available from September 30 and highlights some of the remarkable solutions happening globally to repair the planet.

The book also features contributions from members of The Earthshot Prize Council, including Christiana Figueres, former UN Climate Chief responsible for delivery of the landmark Paris Agreement on Climate Change, singer and philanthropist Shakira, former international astronaut Naoko Yamazaki, and broadcaster and natural historian Sir David Attenborough.

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