Costa Rica wins £1m from Prince William’s Earthshot prize

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attend the first Earthshot Prize awards ceremony at Alexandra Palace in London.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attend the first Earthshot Prize awards ceremony, held in London

Two best friends who grow coral and the country of Costa Rica are among the winners of the first ever Earthshot Prizes. The annual awards were created by the Duke of Cambridge to reward people trying to save the planet.

There were five winners announced in London, each receiving £1m.

Prince William was joined by stars including Emma Watson, Dame Emma Thompson and David Oyelowo for the ceremony at Alexandra Palace. Ed Sheeran, Coldplay and KSI were among the acts that performed – and in keeping with the eco message, the music was powered by 60 cyclists pedalling on bikes.

No celebrities flew to London for the ceremony, no plastic was used to build the stage and guests were asked to “consider the environment” when choosing an outfit – with Watson wearing a dress made from 10 different dresses from Oxfam.

Emma Watson arrives for the first Earthshot Prize awards ceremony at Alexandra Palace in London. Picture date: Sunday October 17, 2021.
Harry Potter actress Emma Watson has previously used her platform to call for climate change action

The Earthshot prize’s name is a reference to the “Moonshot” ambition of 1960s America, which saw then-President John F Kennedy pledge to get a man on the Moon within a decade. Each year for the next decade, the prize is awarding £1m each to five projects that are working to find solutions to the planet’s environmental problems.

The inaugural winners were selected from five different categories, and were chosen from a shortlist of 15 by judges including broadcaster Sir David Attenborough, actress Cate Blanchett and singer Shakira.

  • The Republic of Costa Rica: Costa Rica was a country that once cleared most of its forests, but it has now doubled the number of trees and is seen as a role model for others to follow. The winning project is a scheme paying local citizens to restore natural ecosystems that has led to a revival of the rainforest.

Earlier this week, the duke suggested that rather than the world’s top minds setting their sights on space tourism, they should instead focus on saving Earth. With stars from the worlds of football and music arriving on a green carpet, the message was that environmental challenges deserve the same kind of attention as the Oscars. And the winning teams were obviously thrilled to get such high-profile recognition.

The test now is whether their projects will be scaled up in a way that makes a difference worldwide. Whether it’s restoring corals and forests or reducing waste and carbon emissions, the plan is for big name companies to support these mostly small-scale schemes and help them to become global.

It may well be years before we see how well that works out in practice, and inevitably some projects may prove more effective than others. In any event, in the countdown to the vital Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow next month, the winners offer something that’s been in short supply recently: a sense of optimism.

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