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1st-ever "Earthshot Prize" winners announced as Prince William gives planet-saving innovators a boost

London — Some of the world's biggest celebrities joined Britain's Prince William in London on Sunday night for first-ever "Earthshot Prize" awards ceremony.

The award, created by Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, was inspired by John F. Kennedy's "Moonshot" pledge to get Americans on the moon. The Earthshot is also designed to inspire innovation — but not to reach the heavens. The Earthshot is a bid to keep the planet we currently inhabit liveable for future generations.

The prizes bring recognition and a significant chunk of funding for people working on innovative solutions to major environmental crises facing the Earth, and as CBS News correspondent Charlie D'Agata reports, the stars came out to help save the planet.

A pedal-powered performance by Coldplay kicked off the proceedings, with 60 cyclists cranking away to provide all the electricity required.

ClimateWatch: Prince William launches "Earthshot Prize" 03:07

But the message from the inaugural Earthshot Prize ceremony was far from celebratory: The royal host warned everyone watching that we're all living in "the most consequential time in human history."

"I want to say something to all the young people watching tonight," said the prince. "For too long, we haven't done enough to protect the planet for your future. But Earthshot is for you. In the next 10 years, we are going to act. We are going to find the solutions to repair our planet."

Five big-thinking visionaries from around the globe were awarded about $1.4 million each for finding innovative ways to protect the Earth.

The winners are

  • The nation of Costa Rica, which won in the "Protect and Restore Nature" category for a policy that pays local citizens to help plant trees and preserve the country's rainforest.
  • India's Vidyut Mohan, who won the "Clean our Air" prize for his Takachar social enterprise that is helping to convert harmful pollutants produced by his country's agriculture sector into sellable bio-fuels and fertilizers.
  • The Coral Vita initiative in the Bahamas, which won the "Revive our Oceans" prize for developing a scalable system to grow new, hearty corals on land that can be transplanted in small clusters into the oceans to rejuvenate reefs killed off by warmer waters.
  • Milan, Italy, won the "Build a Waste-Free World" prize for an initiative that has seen the city make use of huge amounts of food, which would otherwise have been discarded by grocery stores and other big entities, to feed those in need.  
  • The international Enapter project, which took the "Fix our Climate" prize for its AEM Electrolyser — a far more efficient way to create emission-free hydrogen gas from renewable electricity.

"What we have achieved in this small country in Central America can be done anywhere," Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado Quesada said in remarks beamed into the prize ceremony on Sunday.

In keeping with the theme, nobody was actually flown in for the show, and no plastic was used to build the stage.

The Earthshot awards ceremony in London
Britain's Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, talk with Sir David Attenborough during the first Earthshot Prize awards ceremony at Alexandra Palace in London, Britain, October 17, 2021. Alberto Pezzali/Pool via Reuters

Those who did attend were encouraged to "consider the environment" when deciding what to wear. Prince William donned a green velvet jacket while his wife Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, reused an Alexander McQueen gown she first wore 10 years ago. 

"For too long we've neglected our wild spaces," said Kate, "and now we're facing a number of tipping points."

Next year, the ceremony will bring its bid to save the planet to one of the most powerful countries on the planet: The United States will host the Earthshot Prize ceremony in 2022.

"The finalists and winners that we've recognized this evening remind us that we do have the incredible ability to turn the improbable into reality, if we work together," U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry told the prize ceremony in remarks delivered via video.

If you missed the ceremony on Sunday night, it can be watched on Discovery Plus from October 20.

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