Prince William launches the Earthshot Prize ‘after two years of intense planning’

Pretty much the day Prince Harry announced his engagement to Meghan Markle, the Embiggening Campaign for the Duchess of Cambridge began. It’s still remarkable to me to look back to how quickly it was organized: Work-Shy Waity seamlessly and gracelessly became the Future Queen Who Never Put A Foot Wrong. She had big things in the pipeline, we were told ad nauseum, and Kate had spent the past decade working endlessly on her big project, Early Years, or something about Broken Britain. There were meetings and parties and buttons. It was all very important. Nothing much came of that. But in 2020, post-Sussexit, Prince William is the one with the Embiggening Campaign. Kate no longer has competition, so she’s lost interest in being performatively keen. So it’s William’s turn.

So what’s Future Future King William’s big legacy project? The Earthshot Prize. William announced Earthshot on one of the last days of 2019. He barely mentioned it in the nine months since then. But his staff dusted off Earthshot and they clearly see this as the perfect issue for William. Something vague involving lots of secret meetings and lots of work for which William can take credit. Nine months after he announced Earthshot, he’s now formally re-launching it or something:

🐢 Protect and restore nature
💨 Clean our air
🌊 Revive our oceans
♻️ Build a waste-free world
🌍 Fix our climate

Introducing the @EarthshotPrize 🏆

— The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (@KensingtonRoyal) October 8, 2020

So there you go. In case you wanted more embiggening, please enjoy all of these insider-y quotes which Kensington Palace provided to many journalists.

How long William has been “working” on Earthshot: When Prince William traveled through Africa on a working visit in the fall of 2018, it was his time in Namibia, Kenya, and Tanzania tackling conservation issues and illegal wildlife trade that inspired him to explore permanent solutions to global environmental challenges. Ideas swirled in his mind for two months until he had a bigger conversation with Sir David Attenborough in London. There, the famed activist and Duke of Cambridge discussed an idea to create a prize that will not only incentivize the global effort to protect and restore the environment, but also help repair the planet by 2030.

Earthshot is the new Nobel Prize: “That was when they started talking about what would become his most ambitious project to date,” a Kensington Palace source tells “Something that would gain the prestige of the Nobel Prize. He didn’t want to duplicate the efforts of others, but after [researching the landscape] they couldn’t find something that met the same criteria … where winners from every sector—be it a scientific team or a 12-year-old in a classroom in Kenya—are possible.”

It’s prestigious! Now, after two years of intense planning and behind-the-scenes work, Prince William is ready to share new details of what he is calling the most “prestigious global environmental prize in history.” The Earthshot Prize has today announced it will spend the next 10 years annually awarding five, one million-pound ($1.2 million) prizes to individuals, organizations, charities, scientists, activists, and those around the world who are working to provide solutions to the world’s biggest environmental problems.

Earthshot will make you famous: Starting in the fall of 2021, a high-profile awards ceremony will take place in a different country every year until 2030, where five winners for prizes will be awarded each time. London is the first location (in line with whatever COVID-19 guidelines may exist at the time), where awards for five new solutions in five special categories will be presented: protect and restore nature, clean our air, revive our oceans, build a waste-free world, and fix our climate. Not only will each winner receive prize money to support their environmental and conservation projects, they will also receive a global platform and become part of The Earthshot legacy. “Our aim is to create the same kind of buzz for these winners and finalists that Olympic athletes receive,” a spokeswoman told reporters, including BAZAAR, during a media briefing. “Create an excitement about who they are and make them famous.”

William is doing a TV series? Along the way, other Earthshot-related activities will take place, including a global communications campaign (in seven different languages) and a landmark television series to tie in with the decade of the initiative. The duke himself expects to remain involved and committed throughout the entire decade, with plans even in place for potential cameos from other members of the royal family. “Watch this space,” says a palace source on whether the queen will be lending her support.

His confidence has grown: A Kensington Palace aide adds of Prince William, “His confidence has grown along the way [of working on The Earthshot Prize] and he is excited to be working with a team that can support him as he knows that him alone is not enough. He has a global leadership role to play and now is the time to play it.”

[From Harper’s Bazaar]

This is obviously a lot bigger than Kate’s sad little Early Years busy-work, which makes me wonder how much William really did and how much was organized with William just breezing in occasionally to say “yeah, good work everyone.” And the whole idea that Earthshot is suddenly going to become this huge deal – comparable to the Nobel Prize – and that it will immediately make people super-famous because William has organized it… well, they’re all going to be in for a big shock. But it will be interesting to see. It’s not the traditional Cambridge keenness and busy-work. I do wonder though… why the announcement of Earthshot last December, and why did it take nine months to really form a plan? Why that gap?

Photos courtesy of WENN, Avalon Red and Backgrid.

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