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The UK's Prince William launches Nobel-like prize for the environment

Britain's Prince William is dedicating $65 million to create a new environmental award, in an effort to inspire solutions to some of the Earth's most pressing challenges.

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Max Foster
CNN — Britain's Prince William is dedicating $65 million to create a new environmental award, in an effort to inspire solutions to some of the Earth's most pressing challenges.

Starting in 2021, the Earthshot Prize will be awarded annually to five people, organizations or groups for solutions to the five "earthshot" objectives: protecting and restoring nature, cleaning the air, reviving oceans, building a waste-free world or fixing the climate.

As a result, the hope is to have at least 50 solutions to problems within each of these five areas by 2030.

Kensington Palace aims to make the prize one of the most prestigious global environmental awards in history. Each winner will receive £1 million ($1.3 million), slightly more than a Nobel prize-winner receives.

"The plan is to really galvanize and bring together the best minds, the best possible solutions, to fixing and tackling some of the world's greatest environmental challenges,' the prince will say in a film to launch the prize later Thursday. "The next ten years are a critical decade for change."

The prince has signed up high-profile names to his prize council, including Australian Hollywood actor Cate Blanchett, Chinese billionaire philanthropist Jack Ma, Brazilian footballer Dani Alves, Colombian singer Shakira and British naturalist David Attenborough.

In an interview with Attenborough to be broadcast on BBC radio later Thursday, the prince will say: "I felt very much that there's a lot of people wanting to do many good things for the environment and what they need is a bit of a catalyst, a bit of hope, a bit of positivity that we can actually fix what's being presented. And I think that urgency with optimism really creates action."

In terms of climate, the year 2020 has shattered a number of heat records, raising alarm bells that the Earth is heading for an increase in global temperatures of more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that an increase above this threshold could have dangerous and life-threatening consequences through heatwaves, rising sea levels and water scarcity, among many others.

Jason Knauf, Chief Executive of The Royal Foundation, which will oversee the prize, said to reporters in a briefing earlier this week that the world was in a "make-or-break decade for the planet."

"We are rapidly approaching a number of tipping points and we know that if we don't act now we may find that stopping runaway climate change and destruction of the natural world will simply become impossible. This isn't theory anymore," he said.

Prince William came up with the idea for the awards during a visit to Namibia, Tanzania and Kenya two years ago and has since taken advice from dozens of individuals and organizations, including The Nobel Institute, Greenpeace, World Economic Forum and Prince Charles, his father.

He credits both his father and grandfather for inspiring him to continue their work on conservation. The name Earthshot was inspired by President John F. Kennedy's "moonshot" effort to put a man on the moon.

Nominations will open on November 1 this year. An annual global awards ceremony will be held in a different city each year, starting in London in autumn 2021.

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