Last year, Prince William was due to attend the first annual Earthshot Prize Innovation Summit in New York City, but his visit was canceled following the death of his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, and the r0yal period of mourning.
A year later, he is elated to be in the States. "No one does optimism and ingenuity like the American people, so it’s only right we unveil this year's Earthshot finalists in New York City," he shared upon his arrival. Yesterday, the Prince of Wales began his 36-hour trip to New York City by visiting Governors Island, where he learned about Billion Oyster Project's mission of restoring oyster reefs to the New York harbor.
But the real focus of his visit is today, at the Earthshot Prize Innovation Summit. During the summit, co-hosted by the Earthshot Prize and Bloomberg Philanthropies at the Plaza Hotel, the 15 Earthshot Prize finalists were announced; winners will be unveiled at an awards ceremony in Singapore this November. Former New York City mayor Michael R. Bloomberg opened the event, and spoke highly of Prince William's dedication to tackling the climate crisis. Other speakers included previous Earthshot winners, former New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Bill Gates, and Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore's Minister of Foreign Affairs.
The Prince of Wales also took to the stage in conversation with Vaitea Cowan, the co-founder of Enapter. Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General of the World Trade Organization and a member of the Earthshot Prize Council, introduced Prince William. "In the three short years since its founding, the Earthshot Prize finalists and winners have taken great leaps with their solutions," she said. "Earthshot is more than a prize—it's a movement."
The Prince began by speaking about going for a morning jog in Central Park this morning. "I decided to join the hordes of New Yorkers doing their morning routine," Prince William said. "It was wonderful waking up in New York on a sunny morning, after the rain we had yesterday, it was beautiful getting some fresh air this morning."
Starting Earthshot, he says, was a very "sweaty process." He spoke about being inspired by John F. Kennedy's Moonshot, and how hope and optimism are the key ways to inspire change. "As we've seen today, the Earthshot winners and the finalists create that inspiration, that optimism," he said. "We've got to hang onto optimism and hope. It is the biggest driver of change; it is the biggest driver of innovation."
Ahead of the main event during a breakfast with media, the excitement amongst the finalists was palpable. "I'm still pinching myself; it's still sinking in," Peter Majeranowski, the president and co-founder of Circ, tells Town & Country. "It's a very reflective day, thinking about all the hard work over the years that's gone into our solution." Conor Hartman, Circ's Chief Operating Officer adds. "We're out to change the world, and this gives us the opportunity to do it faster and bigger."
Finding out they had been nominated for Earthshot Prize, Majernowski says, was emotional, as is being in New York for the summit today. "If you look around this world, you have some of the greatest innovators in the world who are really solving the key challenges for the planet—what a privilege, just to be here and get to meet them," he adds.
For Eugenia Kargbo, Chief Heat Officer at Freetown City Council who works on their Freetown the Treetown campaign, being in New York is "such an amazing feeling and an amazing opportunity." Earthshot, Kargbo tells T&C, "means being with a community of people who are climate minded, people with inspiring solutions, and people that we can also learn from and share our experience with. It's not only about the platform, but it's also an opportunity to network with others and gain inspiration."
Already, the finalists are feeling the support that being part of the Earthshot community offers.
"We are coming [with the support] of thousands of people. Those thousands of people are full of hope," Constantino Aucca, the president and co-founder of Acción Andina, tells T&C. "We are trying to the best that we can do to try to fill that hope. We want to continue doing more for this mother earth—and this Earthshot Prize can help us. We are planting millions of trees; and to plant millions of trees, we need a lot of help. "
The Earthshot Prize is ambitious, but it's ready to help Aucca's mission and that of the finalists. "If you take the optimism and hope as given... How do we scale faster? I'm impatient with all of this," Prince William said during his conversation. He's clearly eager to reach more audiences, and more investors. "We're not doing this to be philanthropic—we're doing this because the vast majority of these solutions are to be commercially viable."
He's looking 10 years down the line. "I wanna make sure that we found the right solutions, we found the right people, but we're also maximizing their impact," he says. "I'm a big believer in a big team. I don't think any solutions in the world can be achieved by ourselves."
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