Prince William says 'not to give up' in the face of climate change

Prince William urges humanity ‘not to give up’ in the face of ‘terrifying’ and ‘exponential’ climate change in a foreword to the new book for his landmark £50million Earthshot Prize

  • Prince William is urging humanity ‘not to give up’ in the face of climate change 
  • The future British king says he understands why people feel ‘so despondent’ 
  • Made the remarks in a foreword to a new book accompanying his Earthshot Prize

Prince William is urging humanity ‘not to give up’ in the face of ‘terrifying’ and ‘exponential’ climate change.

The future British king says he understands why people feel ‘so despondent, so fearful and so powerless’ in the face of a such a rapidly approaching ‘tipping point’.

But in the foreword to a new book accompanying his landmark £50million Earthshot Prize, the royal sounds a rare note of optimism.

Recalling his very personal moment of clarity following a trip to Namibia in 2018 that led him to set up the initiative, he says: ‘I was hit by a wave of global pessimism. 

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

‘I understood why the mood was full of despair, of course. The challenge facing our planet is immense. We were about to enter what scientists say is the most consequential decade in history.’

Prince William (pictured) is urging humanity ‘not to give up’ in the face of ‘terrifying’ and ‘exponential’ climate change

He continued: ‘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. The damage we are doing is no longer incremental but exponential, and we are fast reaching a tipping point…

‘..The facts look terrifying, and I could see that this risked making people feel like they might as well give up. The global debate felt too complex, too negative, too overwhelming. 

‘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.’

But William says he then looked to his own experiences – and those of his father and grandfather, both of whom have proved environmental pioneers in their own ways.

‘Following in their footsteps, I have seen people all over the world face what seem like insurmountable challenges yet come together with collective ambition, and a can-do-spirit, to find solutions to them,’ he says.

‘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.’

He made the remarks in the foreword to a new book (above) accompanying his landmark £50million Earthshot Prize, the royal sounds a rare note of optimism

The prince, 39, decided to take inspiration from John F Kennedy’s Moonshot challenge, pushing man’s exploration of space more than ever before, resulting in the Apollo moon landings.

He decided to recapture that ‘human ingenuity, purpose and optimism’ with the Earthshot Prize, which will today unveil the first 15 finalists – out of 750 entries from across the globe – competing for a £50million prize pot with innovative solutions that could repair the planet and change life on earth for all.

Every year from 2021 until the end of the decade, winners in five categories will each receive £1 million 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

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.

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

Writing about an early morning trip to try and catch a glimpse of the endangered black rhino, he says: ‘The sight that greets you on arrival at the Hoanib Valley in the Kunene region of Namibia is breath-taking. 

‘The desert landscape is rocky and bare, criss-crossed with ancient, dry riverbeds that are now used as roads, and punctured by the odd tree and bit of scrub. 

‘The setting sun behind the mountains makes you stop in your tracks. This place has a majestic otherworldly beauty.

‘What makes the environment even more breath-taking is the wildlife that now thrives here. Herds of springbok and oryx pick their way through the dusty plains. Desert-adapted giraffes amble along with an elegant gait. Elephants shelter from the beating sun under the shade of large trees. 

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

‘And if you are willing to get up early, be patient, and have a bit of luck on your side, you might spot one of the region’s precious, free-ranging black rhino or even a desert lion.’ 

William says the ‘optimism and determination’ he witnessed with communities on the ground, fired him to make a difference on his return.

‘The community conservancy model is a prime example of how a simple, positive solution can have wide-reaching benefits for both humans and nature. Most importantly of all, it is a success story that can be replicated and scaled. I wanted to find a way to bottle that innovation and community spirit and mass-produce it globally,’ he says.

‘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.’ 

Jason Knauf, CEO of The Royal Foundation, said yesterday: ‘The challenge the duke set himself was “what is the maximum positive personal contribution I can make in the next ten years in the fight against climate change? What am I going to do in the next decade that means I can look my children in the eye and say that I did my bit?” Every aspect of the prize bears the stamp of his contribution.’ 

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.

Who will join Prince William on the Earthshot Prize Council?  

Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah, Jordan

Queen Rania of Al Abdullah is the queen consort of Jordan and is known for her humanitarian focus and for using her platform to advocate for women’s right and issues of sustainability.

Cate Blanchett – actor, producer and humanitarian, Australia

Cate Blanchett is an Oscar winning actress, with roles in blockbusters including ‘Elizabeth’, ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’, ‘The Aviator’ and as Hela in ‘Thor: Ragnorak’.

She is also an avid environmental campaigner, having been inspired to get involved by Al Gore, and has worked tirelessly for causes both in her native Australia and around the globe.

She is an ambassador for Australian Conservation Foundation and visited politicians and people in Queensland to raise awareness of climate issues. 

Christiana Figueres – Former UN climate chief, responsible for the landmark Paris Agreement on Climate Change (Costa Rica) 

Christiana Figueres is a diplomat with experience in high level national and international policy and multilateral negotiations. She was appointed Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in July 2010, six months after the COP15 failed in Copenhagen.

During the next six years she worked to rebuild the global climate change negotiating process, leading to the 2015 Paris agreement, widely recognized as a historical achievement.

Dani Alves – professional footballer (Brazil)

Dani Alves is a professional footballer for Brazil. Speaking upon being chosen for the council, he said: ‘It’s the most important power in the world – nature. If you give it good things then nature gives good things back to you.

‘We’re going to make a good team.’ 

Sir David Attenborough – broadcaster and natural historian (UK)

Sir David Frederick Attenborough is an English broadcaster and natural historian. He is best known for writing and presenting and is considered a national treasure in the UK.

Sir David has become more vocal in his support of environmental causes over the last two decades, saying: ‘I really do think things are about to start to move, and this sort of idea could be the spark that is really going to give it the lift and the impetus to develop into something huge.

‘It’s a great source of hope, and I hope it spreads around the world.”

Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim – environmental activist (Chad)

Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim is an environmental activist and geographer. She is the Coordinator of the Association of Peul Women and Autochthonous Peoples of Chad (AFPAT) and served as the co-director of the pavilion of the World Indigenous Peoples’ Initiative and Pavilion at COP21, COP22 and COP23. 

Indra Nooyi – business executive and former Chairman & CEO of PepsiCo (US & India)

Indra Nooyi is an Indian-American business executive and former chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) of PepsiCo, who is consistently ranked as amoung the top 100 most powerful women in the world.

In 2017, she was ranked the 2nd most powerful woman once more on the Forbes list of The 19 Most Powerful Women in Business.

She serves on the boards for Amazon and the International Cricket Council. 

Jack Ma – philanthropist, entrepreneur and UNSDG Advocate (China)

Jack Ma is a Chinese business magnate, investor and philanthropist, as well as the co-founder and former executive chairman of Alibaba Group, a multinational technology conglomerate. 

Ma is a global ambassador for Chinese business and is often listed as one of the world’s most powerful people, with Forbes ranking him 21st on its “World’s Most Powerful People” list. 

As of 29 July 2020, with a fortune of $48.2 billion, Ma is the second-wealthiest person in China and one of the wealthiest people in the world.    

Naoko Yamazaki – former astronaut onboard the International Space Station (Japan)

Naoko Yamazaki is a former Japanese astronaut and the second Japanese woman to fly in space.

She revealed: ‘It’s been more than half a century since human beings reached space and even the moon. However, the Earth is our only home planet. 

‘When I saw the International Space Station, I saw it as a symbol of international collaboration. If we all put our forces together for a common goal, we can make a great achievement.” 

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala – economist and international development expert (Nigeria)

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is a Nigerian-born economist and international development expert. She sits on the Boards of Standard Chartered Bank, Twitter, Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), and the African Risk Capacity (ARC)  

Shakira – singer and philanthropist (Colombia)

Shakira is a Colombian singer, songwriter, record producer, dancer, actress, and philanthropist. She is one of 17 advocates for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Yao Ming – Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer and environmentalist (China)

Yao Ming is a Chinese basketball executive and former professional player. He was also named the UN Environment Programme’s first-ever Environmental Champion. 

He pledged to give up eating shark’s fin soup, a Chinese delicacy, in association with a WildAid campaign to promote wildlife protection. 

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