City, News

Royal family visits for Earthshot Prize Awards in Fenway

Prince William and Princess Catherine of Wales attended a public ceremony at Boston’s City Hall on Nov. 30 as part of their three-day trip to Boston culminating in the annual Earthshot Prize Awards held last Friday.

Established in 2020 by Prince William and the Royal Foundation, the Earthshot Prize grants funding to environmental entrepreneurs in order to advance their work.

Royal couple
(Left to right) Prince William of Wales, Princess Catherine of Wales, Gov.-elect Maura Healey, and Mayor Michelle Wu pressing a button that illuminated Boston buildings in green light during the public ceremony at Boston City Hall on Nov. 30. The royal couple presented the Earthshot Prize Awards on Dec. 2. TAYLOR COESTER/DFP STAFF

This year was the first time the awards were hosted in the U.S. The Earthshot Awards were held at MGM Music Hall last Friday, the first time that the event was hosted in a city outside of the UK.

“Boston was also the obvious choice because your universities, research centers and vibrant startup scene make you a global leader in science, innovation and boundless ambition,” William said.

This visit marks the first time the royal couple has visited the United States in eight years and their first trip made outside of the United Kingdom since the death of Queen Elizabeth II and since they were named Prince and Princess of Wales.

At Wednesday’s ceremony, thousands gathered at the City Plaza. Dean Hara, a former financial advisor at Boston Harbor Now, said he knew the Earthshot ceremony was “very significant.”

“Why not have an opportunity to see and be a part of something that is historic?” Hara said.

The welcoming event featured various Massachusetts government officials who spoke about the urgency of taking action against climate change, followed by a performance by the Boston Children’s Chorus. 

During the ceremony, Mayor Michelle Wu spoke about the recently renovated and climate-resilient City Hall Plaza in light of the heavy rain. 

“Every drop of rain falling on us and onto the ground right now is being captured by permeable pavement and green infrastructure to prevent run-off and provide irrigation for all the trees and plants,” she said.

According to the Earthshot prize website, President John F. Kennedy’s Moonshot speech, which aimed to transport the first man to the moon within a decade, was William’s inspiration behind the Earthshot Prize. In addition, this year’s Earthshot Prize was in partnership with the John F. Kennedy Foundation.

“President John F. Kennedy’s moonshot speech laid down a challenge to American innovation and ingenuity…that inspired me to launch the Earthshot Prize with the aim of doing the same for climate change as President Kennedy did for the space race,” he said.

Bethany Loach, a freshman at Emerson College, said she was excited by the prospect of being at an event with the royal family.

“The highlight was hearing Prince William’s words in person about how much (the Earthshot Prize) actually means to him and how important this is to the city of Boston,” Loach said.

Michael Kang, a graduate student at Boston University, said he chose to attend the event after learning about it earlier from an Uber driver. He specifically said he enjoyed the speeches made by Mayor Wu and Prince William.

“They’re the most important figures of the night … they caught the most attention and therefore people are more likely to listen to what they said,” Kang said. “It’s important to have those influential figures and people with titles to let us know what’s going on.”

From 15 finalists, five startups were awarded with one million pound prizes each — equivalent to a little more than $1.2 million — for each of the five categories: Protect and Restore Nature, Clean Our Air, Revive Our Oceans, Build a Waste-Free World, and Fix Our Climate.

The five recipients of the Earthshot Prize were the organizations Kheyti, Mukuru Clean Stoves, Indigenous Women of the Great Barrier Reef, NOTPLA, and 44.01, respectively. 

Hosted by broadcaster Clara Amfo and actor Daniel Dae Kim, the Earthshot Prize Awards supported sustainability efforts by having the hosts wear reused outfits and pledge to donate the plants used for the award show to Boston schools and communities.

The show also featured speeches from guests such as environmentalist Sir David Attenborough and President Kennedy’s daughter, Caroline Kennedy. Celebrities, such as David Beckham and Rami Malek, also presented along with performances by Chloe and Halle Bailey, Billie Eilish, Ellie Goulding and Annie Lennox. 

“It’s cool that they (the royal couple) went out of their way to decide to come back for this event because the event is to better the Earth,” Loach said. “It’s nice to see that they care so much about it.” 

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