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  /  News   /  The Margin: Prince William’s star-studded Earthshot climate prize rewards seaweed packaging and a greenhouse-in-a-box

The Margin: Prince William’s star-studded Earthshot climate prize rewards seaweed packaging and a greenhouse-in-a-box

Prince William was on hand in Boston to announce the second annual winners of prize money to advance global climate-change initiatives, with a woman-led effort to burn cleaner biomass in African stoves and a new idea for seaweed-based packaging among this year’s recipients. 

Inspired by President John F. Kennedy’s “Moonshot” challenge that pioneered space travel in the 1960s, the monarch’s Earthshot Prize aims to discover and scale the best solutions to help repair a warming planet, and with a tight deadline applying the pressure. The solutions are meant to be in widespread use by the end of this decade.

Without more aggressive action to slow the Earth-warming emissions that result from driving gas-powered cars and other dependence on fossil fuels
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the planet will be in lethal danger in just a few generations, the United Nations warns.

The Prince of Wales paid homage to the late President Kennedy, saying his Earthshot Prize was inspired by Kennedy’s audacious moonshot speech in 1962, which mobilized the U.S. to put astronauts on the moon. That same sense of urgency and scale is needed now to protect the environment, William said.

“In the same way the space effort six decades ago created jobs, boosted economies and provided hope, so too can the solutions borne of tonight’s Earthshot Prize winners,” William said.

Fifteen technologies made the Earthshot finals in five areas: Protect and Restore Nature; Clean our Air; Revive our Oceans; Build a Waste-free World; and Fix our Climate.

The second annual prize offers 1 million pounds ($1.2 million) to each of the five winners. The winners and to some degree, all 15 finalists, will receive help in expanding their projects to meet global demand.

The winners, announced at Boston’s MGM Music Hall near Fenway Park, were:

— A female-founded, Kenya-based startup called Mukuru Clean Stoves. Across Africa, 700 million people use solid fuel to cook on open fires and cookstoves that emit toxic chemicals and lack safeguards. Accidents and air pollution kill 4 million people each year. Instead, this technology pushes biomass made from charcoal, wood and sugarcane;

— A U.K. company called Notpla, which makes biodegradable packaging from seaweed. Uses include takeout containers, a “bubble” to hold liquids and paper for the cosmetic and fashion industry;

— A “greenhouse-in-a-box” concept created to increase yields on the some 100 million small-hold farms in India. Start-up Kheyti’s development offers right-sized shelter from unpredictable elements and destructive pests;

— A technique for transforming atmospheric carbon into rock in Oman. Named 44.01 after the molecular weight of carbon dioxide, the technology created by childhood friends eliminates atmosphere-warming CO2 by turning it into rock and permanently mineralizing it in peridotite, a rock found in abundance in Oman, the U.S., Europe, Asia and Australasia;

— A woman-led effort to create a new generation of indigenous conservation rangers in Australia. The Queensland Indigenous Women Rangers Network combines 60,000 years of land knowledge with tech-driven ways to deliver that conservation experience. The data they have collected has given us critical insight into one of the most important ecosystems on the planet.

Providing the star power for the glitzy Friday evening show, taped for a later broadcast, were musicians Annie Lennox, Ellie Goulding and Chloe x Halle, appearing live in Boston, and Billie Eilish performing remotely. The event also featured videos narrated by naturalist David Attenborough and actor Cate Blanchett. Prizes were presented by actor Rami Malek, comedian and actress Catherine O’Hara, and actor and activist Shailene Woodley.

“It’s the greatest crisis of our lifetime, and I appreciate what Prince William is doing,” Malek said. “And in the next 10 years I think the impact will be staggering. And we can really effect change in the greatest way with these innovators who are being awarded this evening.”

The ceremony will air on Sunday, Dec. 4 at 5:30 p.m. GMT on BBC and will begin streaming from The Earthshot Prize YouTube channel later that evening. In the U.S., it will begin streaming at 2:00 p.m. EST on Monday, Dec. 5 on PBS.org and the PBS App and later on the PBS YouTube channel. PBS will also broadcast the event on Wednesday, Dec. 14 at 8:00 p.m. EST (check local listings).

The only U.S. finalist for the prize among 15 contenders was suburban Chicago-based LanzaTech, which aims to recirculate carbon waste into everyday products.

Related: This $69 little black dress is made out of carbon emissions collected from steel mills

Since its beginning in 2005, LanzaTech and its partners have deployed three commercial plants in China, converting industrial emissions to ethanol, mitigating the equivalent of over 200,000 metric tons of CO2 from the atmosphere.

The ethanol produced at these plants has been converted into sustainable fuels, packaging, cosmetics, cleaning products and textiles. Zara, Unilever
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Coty, Mibelle, On and Lululemon
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are some of the major consumer brands that have made products from recycled carbon.

The Associated Press contributed.

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