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The new Earthshot Prize wants humanity’s best solutions for the climate crisis

The 2010s was a good decade when it comes to raising awareness of climate-related problems. You know what it wasn’t great for? Actually solving them. That’s something an ambitious new global prize hopes to change in the coming decade — and it’s got the U.K.’s royal stamp of approval, to boot.

Backed by Prince William and Kate Middleton, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the Earthshot Prize seeks to award prizes for “a decade of action to repair the Earth.” In total, it will hand out five prizes per year each year between 2021 and 2030. That will mean 50 possible answers to the “world’s greatest problems,” ranging from climate change to air pollution.

“Ours is a world of wonder,” environmentalist David Attenborough narrates in an announcement video shared on Instagram. “Every day it reminds us of its beauty. But it also warns us that we can no longer take life as we know it for granted. But humans have an extraordinary power to solve the greatest challenges.”

The video name-checks the moonshot: The once impossible-seeming dream of landing astronauts on the moon. The moon landing was announced as a goal for the United States by President John F. Kennedy in 1961. By 1969, it was a reality that captured the imagination and attention of the entire world. In the same spirit, the Earthshot Prize — which Attenborough describes as the “most prestigious environment prize in history” — hopes to do the same thing with the aim of repairing our damaged planet.

The prize will officially launch in 2020, the same year as the Convention on Biodiversity in China and the COP26 Climate Change Conference in Scotland. More than 60 organizations and experts have been consulted as part of the development process for the prize. It will be run by The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. However, at a later date it could be spun out as its own independent organization.

The Earthshot Prize will be just one of the countless initiatives addressing the problem of climate change and the environment in the 2020s. But this promises to be one of the highest-profile attempts to do so. Let’s just hope the results match up to its lofty ambitions.

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Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
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