Boston was recently honored with a royal visit from Prince William and Princess Catherine for the purpose of announcing the winners of their Earthshot Prize Awards, which go to individuals across the globe who are working on solutions to repair the planet by 2030. The awards were presented in partnership with the Boston-based John. F Kennedy Foundation, which is how the city was chosen as the host of this year’s awards. The concept of “Earthshot” is reminiscent Kennedy’s “Moonshot,” the commitment he made during a speech at Rice University in 1962 to put a man on the moon. Earthshot emphasizes the urgent need for global climate action.
Although none of the very deserving winners of the one-million pound prize are from Boston, or even the United States, the awards ceremony and surrounding festivities also showcased Boston’s ongoing transformation into a more environmentally conscious city. Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, Governor Charlie Baker and Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey were all listed among the honorary members of the Earthshot Prize Host Committee. Perhaps most deserving of this honor is Senator Ed Markey, who co-authored the Green New Deal. Organizers pointed to Boston’s newly-renovated, environmentally sustainable City Hall Plaza.
Amid constant arguments about the societal value of the British royal family, and whether the monarchy should be modernized or done away with, the royal family has found success in seemingly sincere efforts to combat climate change. King Charles III has been an outspoken environmentalist and climate advocate for decades. He supports sustainable farming practices, more efficient urban planning, renewable energy and guiding businesses on how to be more environmentally friendly. Given the influence of the British monarchy on the world stage, the simple act of demonstrating support for these sensible policies is powerful. However, King Charles has also made more tangible changes by installing solar panels and biomass boilers at his residences, establishing the International Sustainability Unit in 2010 and leading the design of the city of Poundbury as a model for sustainable urban design, among other climate initiatives. Prince William and Princess Kate join the King’s important goal of fighting climate change with the Earthshot prize, which is now in its second year of funding and highlighting solutions to this pressing issue.
In addition to presenting Earthshot awards in Boston, the royal couple also met with President Joe Biden and Mayor Michelle Wu. Wu was elected in November 2021 on a platform that prioritized climate change, an issue she has since foregrounded as mayor. Over the past year, she has already signed an ordinance to divest city funds from fossil fuels and unveiled a plan to keep vulnerable communities from extreme heat, recognizing that the impacts of climate change are already upon us. Wu promised Boston voters progress on this issue, and her future plans indicate a clear focus on measurable improvements — such as converting the city's fleet of school buses to be entirely electric by 2030, banning fossil fuels from all future building construction and using city funds to make homes more energy efficient.
Prince William and Princess Kate are correct in describing their goal of repairing our climate as an “Earthshot.” It is an ambitious goal which seems just as unlikely as it did in the 1960s when JFK promised that an American would set foot on the moon. Boston itself still has a long way to go, despite Mayor Wu’s initiatives — the city's goal for net-zero carbon emissions is set at 2050; a date which is not the most ambitious. Furthermore, the city must continue to improve the T, since closures affect Bostonians’ access to quality public transportation.
Let’s remember the moment we stepped foot on the moon. The Earthshot awards, along with the pomp and circumstance of the royal visit, provide Boston with an opportunity to celebrate accomplishments and also acknowledge the work that is unfinished — there will have to be another ceremony next year and for many to come.