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Prince William says young people are 'shining lights' in environmental battle

Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·3-min read
William spoke to young people around the world about protecting the environment. (Kensington Palace)
William spoke to young people around the world about protecting the environment. (Kensington Palace)

Prince William has said young people are the ‘shining lights’ in the battle to change the tide and protect the environment.

William, 38, spoke to a group of youngsters from around the world about how people can all do their bit and help educate their families about their impact on the planet.

The activists have been named the 2020 Young Champions of the Earth and William said any of them could have a shot at winning one of the prizes as part of his environmental initiative.

William set up the Earthshot Prize to inspire optimism in the climate fight, and prizes worth £50m will be given away in the next decade to projects which are tackling key problems the planet is facing.

Nzambi Matee, from Kenya, who manufactures sustainable building materials, talked to the Duke of Cambridge about how she convinced the older generation of her family to be more sustainable.

She said: “If we can convince my grandmother not to use plastic bags, we can do anything.”

The duke agreed and said: “If every young person educates their family on the environmental impact they are having, that in turn is making a difference, and changing the tide, and creating that momentum.”

He said not everyone had to do as much as the seven people the UN had chosen as champions but all could “do their bit”.

William spoke to the seven UNEP winners via video call. (Kensington Palace)
William spoke to the seven UNEP winners via video call. (Kensington Palace)

The champions were chosen by UN Environment Programme (UNEP) which is a partner of the duke’s Earthshot Prize.

The duke also spoke to Xiaoyuan Ren from China, Vidyut Mohan from India, Lefteris Arapakis from Greece, Max Hidalgo Quinto from Peru, Niria Alicia Garcia from the United States of America and Fatemah Alzelzela from Kuwait.

He said he was “hugely honoured” to speak to such “brilliant young people doing such fantastic things”.

Among them is an engineer who turns plastic rubbish into paving stones and an activist fighting to save endangered salmon.

The activists will get £7,000 each to help them scale up their ideas and training to help them along the way.

The duke told them: “There’s a lot of opportunity in the environmental space. If young people have a tiny bit of that passion – that you have clearly shown a lot of – then there’s a really good opportunity to find your feet and find a way and do good in the environmental world.

“You are the shining lights of that movement and that interest. It allows people to see your path, your journey and go ‘do you know what, I want some of that, I can do that, I’ve got some ideas too.’”

Watch: Prince William tells Sir David Attenborough about the Earthshot Prize

Read more: Duchess of Cambridge urges teachers 'look after yourselves' as she praises lockdown work

Speaking about his own prize, he said he wanted to “bring hope and optimism back to the environment debate” and to “try and encourage change through hope and action rather than pessimism and despair”.

He asked the seven: “Why do you think the optimism part, which I felt very strongly about, is so important?”

Arapakis, from Greece, who co-founded an organisation which teaches sustainable fishing, said: “I am from a family of fishermen and every year for the last 20 years we get less fish, my family has less and less of everything.

“Personally, I believe that we can make the change, because if we don’t believe that, we can just give up. It’s our only choice. Optimism is our main weapon against the climate crisis.”

William’s Earthshot Prize includes a star-studded judging panel featuring Sir David Attenborough, Shakira and Cate Blanchett.

Nominations opened in November and winners could include individuals, companies or whole countries.

Watch: Duchess of Cambridge admits finding parenting exhausting during pandemic