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Prince William announces winners of first Earthshot Prize to tackle climate crisis

The five inaugural prize winners will receive £1 million each to support their scalable solutions to environmental challenges.

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Prince William presents the Earthshot Prize in London.

Yui Mok - WPA Pool/Getty Images

Prince William has announced the winners of the first Earthshot Prize, an ambitious program designed to develop ideas and technologies to protect the environment and fight back against the climate crisis. Five winners were awarded £1 million ($1.4M) at a star-studded event in London on Sunday after being chosen by a council of celebrities, environmentalists, technologists and philanthropists for their scalable solutions to environmental challenges.

The Earthshot Prize was founded by the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and was inspired by John F. Kennedy's moonshot project, which catalyzed the technology world to put humans on the moon back in the 1960s. Instead of the aiming for the moon, the goal of the Earthshot Prize is to galvanize people around the world to design solutions that will protect the Earth for future generations. It will be awarded every year until 2030.

This year's winners include the Republic of Costa Rica for its work in doubling the size of its forests, and the Indian social enterprise Takachar, which has created technology that attaches to farmers' tractors and reduces smoke emissions by 98%. Coral Vita, a winner from the Bahamas, grows coral on land to replant in oceans, giving new life to dying ecosystems. Milan, Italy, was the winner of the waste-free world category, based on its citywide food waste policy that recovers 130 tons of food per year through its three food waste hubs. The final winner is AEM Electrolyser technology made by Germany-based Enapter, which turns renewable electricity into emission-free hydrogen gas.

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Prince William announced the winners of the prize, which will be distributed annually until 2030.

Earthshot Prize

"I hope that our Earthshot winners have shown you there is no place for despair," said Prince William, speaking at the ceremony, following performances from Ed Sheeran and Coldplay. "You should inspire to act and demand that the solutions you've seen tonight get all the support they need."

This year's ceremony came just weeks before the UK is set to host COP26, the world's most important climate summit. The next Earthshot Prize ceremony is set to take place in the US in 2022, Prince William said at the end of the event. His announcement was followed by a message from the US special presidential envoy for climate, John Kerry. 

"There is reason to be filled with hope and even optimism about our future," said Kerry. "The finalists and winners that we've recognized this evening remind us that we do have an incredible ability to turn the improbable into reality if we work together."