Finding ways to bring sustainability in every aspect of modern living is critical for the world to survive and thrive. One of the challenges of our civilization is commercially scaling environmentally friendly solutions that currently gain traction but are not yet competitive in price compared to well-established business-as-usual pathways that pollute our planet and destroy our ecosystems.
The Earthshot Prize challenge is an initiative that aims to support climate tech entrepreneurs in finding new ways to address those environmental issues. It is an independent charity founded by Prince William and the Royal Foundation in 2020 and awards $1.2 million to each of the winners in five categories.
The Earthshot Prize awards ceremony took place on Friday, December 2nd at the MGM Music Hall in Boston and celebrated the 2022 finalists. A list of celebrities participated in the ceremony including Prince William and Catherine, Princess of Wales, Rami Malek, Catherine O’Hara, Billie Eilish, Ellie Goulding, and others.
Among the panel of judges were Sir David Attenborough, actress Cate Blanchett, Shakira, and Christiana Figueres – former head of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. The winners were selected from a group of 15 finalists from 10 different countries. The full awards video can be watched here:
The goal of the challenge is to give away £50 million ($61 million) in awards by 2030 to scale the climate tech solutions of the finalists. The categories are as follows: protect and restore nature, clean our air, revive our oceans, build a waste-free world and fix our climate.
The finalist in the fix our climate category is 44.01, an Omani startup that develops a process by which CO2 captured from the air is mineralized and stored underground in peridotite formations.
The process uses direct air capture technology to take away the CO2 and is powered with renewable energy derived from heat, solar, and biofuels. The startup is founded by Talal Hasan in 2020 and aims to mineralize 1,000 metric tons of CO2 each year until 2024. It also hopes to expand internationally, and store 1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide by 2040.
The company announced its first project this year which is expected to come online in 2024. It will be located in Oman – home to the world’s largest concentration of peridotite and will be developed in partnership with Mission Zero Technologies – a direct air capture startup.
“Climate change is the greatest challenge we have ever faced but being part of this amazing group of finalists gives us hope,” commented Talal Hasan, founder of the 44.01 startup.
The other winners of the awards are Mukuru Clean Stoves – a female-founded business that aims to bring cleaner-burning stoves to women in Kenya, Kheyti – a startup that has developed innovative greenhouses that help farmers in protecting their crops from unpredictable, harsh weather, and pests.
The winner in “revive our oceans” is the Queensland Indigenous Women Rangers Network which utilizes conservation methods to restore Australia’s oceans. And the build a waste-free finalist is Notpla (short for “not plastic”) – an initiative that aims to reduce fossil fuel-based plastics.
Notpla was launched in 2019 and creates a biodegradable seaweed-based packaging for everything from liquids and food to replace hard-to-degrade petroleum-based plastics.
Notpla tackles environmental issues on two fronts – it eliminates plastics while the seaweed the product is made of also removes CO2 from the air and stores it inside the products. So far, Notpla has provided more than 1 million take-out containers to JustEatTakeaway.com – a global online food-delivery marketplace.
The Earthshot Prize plays an important role in spreading the word about climate change solutions using celebrities’ power and activism. However, the startups in those categories still have a long way to go until they make a difference and significantly impact the climate crisis.
The carbon mineralization process by the 44.01 startup aims to eliminate 1 billion metric tons of CO2 in total by 2040 and for comparison, humanity emitted 37.9 billion metric tons of CO2 in 2021 alone. Therefore, for now, the scale of impact offered by the company is still not at the level required to remove a large amount of CO2 emissions to make a significant impact.