Prince William’s Earthshot Prize Adds Plant-Based Experts to Judge 2024 Awards After Campaign from Vegan Charity & Celebrities
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The Prince William-helmed Earthshot Prize has pledged to increase its focus on plant-based solutions after successful campaigning from UK charity Generation V (GenV), which wrote an open letter co-signed by 23 celebrities asking to add a sixth category for organisations advancing a vegan food system. The non-profit has joined the official nominations team for the prize.
GenV has been invited to be an Official Nominator for the Earthshot Prize’s Protect and Restore Nature category, becoming the first vegan charity to be part of the award’s nominations team.
The group has also been asked to select two experts to join the judging panel for this category. It has chosen Oxford University researcher Joseph Poore and Our World in Data scientist Hannah Ritchie to join the panel, which will assess all the nominations and ultimately help choose 15 finalists.
The call for a vegan Earthshot Prize category
These developments are part of ongoing conversations between the Earthshot Prize and GenV, who visited the former’s New York City summit in September. This was a month after it wrote an open letter calling for the awards to add a sixth category to recognise organisations working to promote a plant-based food system, without which “we can’t effectively fight climate change, restore nature, clean our air, revive our oceans, eliminate waste, or achieve our UN Sustainable Development Goals“.
This letter was co-signed by 23 celebrities, including Dame Emma Thompson, Olivia Coleman and Mark Rylance, alongside actors, singers and activists like Annie Lennox, Sharon Osbourne, Alicia Silverstone, Gemma Whelan and Chris Packham. The co-signees pledged to match the £1M prize fund awarded to winners of the existing five categories.
Apart from Protect and Restore Nature, these are Clean our Air, Revive our Oceans, Build a Waste-Free World, and Fix our Climate. GenV says the former is the category the Earthshot Prize team believes the charity’s work most strongly aligns, “although, of course, a plant-based diet is protective of our air, waters and climate, too”.
The ultimate plan is to add the sixth category, Advance a Plant-Based Food System, starting from next year’s prize. That aim hasn’t been realised yet, but conversations are ongoing. “We would like to thank Earthshot Prize for recognizing the need to elevate plant-based solutions, and taking action to ensure they are included in the 2024 awards,” said CEO Naomi Hallum.
A lack of focus on food’s impact on climate change
“Animal agriculture is a leading driver of deforestation, wildlife loss, air and water pollution, and climate breakdown, and we need our environmental groups to be honest about the destructive nature of the animal farming industry. We believe there is still time to heal our planet, but it is absolutely clear that we have to change our food system.”
Livestock farming contributes between 11-19.5% of global emissions, while meat accounts for 60% of all emissions from food. Research has also shown that animal-derived foods like meat and dairy cause twice as many emissions as plant-based foods, and vegan diets can reduce emissions, water pollution and land use by 75% compared to meat-rich diets.
But the Earthshot Prize, which was founded in 2020, has largely failed to address the impact of our food system on the climate. Its 2023 winners – announced earlier this week – include EV lithium-ion battery startup GRST, marine protection organisation Revive Our Oceans, carbon credit verifier Boomitra, Andean forest conservation initiative Acción Andia, and solar-powered farm equipment maker S4S Technologies.
The latter addresses food waste, crop preservation and sidestream valorisation for farmers, but none of the winners actively address agrifood systems’ climate impact. It’s part of a larger trend where the role of food and animal agriculture tends to be ignored in the wide climate conversation. For example, one study found that 93% of all climate coverage in the media doesn’t mention livestock farming, while another revealed how only 4.3% of global climate funding goes to agrifood systems, which make up a third of the planet’s overall emissions.
This is what GenV is seeking to address. “Earthshot is missing a trick if it doesn’t address animal agriculture as a driver of multiple environmental crises,” said actor and GenV supporter Alicia Silverstone. “It’s clear we need a plant-based food system, and now Earthshot has the opportunity to help deliver that.”
Hallum added that the charity is “grateful that Earthshot is listening”, pointing to a line by Earthshot Prize council member Sir David Attenborough in his 2020 Netflix documentary A Life on Our Planet: “We must change our diet. The planet can’t support billions of meat-eaters.”
The Earthshot Prize nomination process
GenV is now inviting the public to help nominate plant-based groups, companies and campaigns for consideration for the 2024 Earthshot Prize. Its list of criteria outlines that each nominee must promote or advance a plant-based food system, be measurably impactful and scalable, drive meaningful change, through education, diet change, policy change, etc., help protect and restore nature (including land, forests, rivers, oceans and wildlife), and be inclusive, equitable, and beneficial to humans and animals.
Suggestions are open till November 30, and will then be assessed by GenV’s senior strategy team, which will nominate those that fit the criteria by December 15. From January to March, the Earthshot Expert Advisory Panel will evaluate these nominations, with a list of 15 finalists published in September. The five winners will be announced in November.
“We talk about fossil fuels as being a huge problem for the planet, and they are. But we also need to look at animal agriculture,” noted British climate journalist George Monbiot. “Farming animals for human consumption is land-hungry, water-hungry and causes so many other environmental problems. We are relying on initiatives like Earthshot to drive positive change for all of us.”