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Earthshot Prize CEO Says Prince William 'Only Gets More Ambitious' Each Year: 'He Really Cares'

People 9/22/2022 Janine Henni

Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Prince William © Provided by People Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Prince William

Prince William is laser-focused on the Earthshot Prize.

The Prince of Wales, 40, was unable to attend the Earthshot Prize Innovation Summit in New York City on Wednesday as the royal family continues to mourn the death of Queen Elizabeth. However, at the event, Hannah Jones, CEO of the Earthshot Prize, told PEOPLE why the future King is more impassioned than ever about the second awards cycle.

In Oct. 2020, Prince William launched the global environmental prize, which was designed to incentivize change and help repair the planet over the next decade. Following an intense global search, five winners are selected from a pool of 15 finalists across diverse categories — Protect and Restore Nature, Clean Our Air, Revive Our Ocean, Build a Waste-Free World, and Fix Our Climate — receiving $1 million in prize money, access to a prestigious professional network and support to scale their projects, creating lasting change.

On how Prince William's vision has evolved since founding Earthshot, Jones tells PEOPLE, "The Prince only ever gets more ambitious for change and impact. It's absolutely fantastic."

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RELATED: Prince William Says Queen Elizabeth Would Have Been 'Delighted' by Earthshot Prize Summit in New York

"He's really committed to this vision, that we should be finding amazing solutions, spotlighting them, awarding some. Think of us as a catalyst for change," she says. "How do we connect to our innovators, with potential supporters? How do we story-tell so that we bring the finalists' stories to the world? Because they're amazing. They're on a hero's quest."

In her experience working with the Prince of Wales, the executive says William is most energized about seeing the finalists succeed.

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"Prince William often uses sporting analogies," she says of the royal (who is an avid athlete and also serves as president of the Football Association in England). "What really drives him is feeling that we're part of a bigger team and that we're working together as a team. When he says 'team,' he means all of our Global Alliance partners, he means city mayors, he means government. He's thinking about, 'How can we all come together around a shared vision and shared values?' "

Prince William also wants the Earthshot winners and finalists to feel the network's support long after their contest cycle wraps, the executive adds.

"The big thing that drives him is the finalists," Jones says. "There's not a conversation where the first thing isn't, 'But how are they doing? Are they okay? Are you looking after them? Are you making sure that they're being successful?' I love that about him. He's really focused on them and making sure that the gift of this platform is one that really helps them move into being exponential in their impact in the world."

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The Earthshot team is thrilled to head to Boston on December 2 for the second awards ceremony, which Jones says was carefully chosen as the first foray out of the United Kingdom because of the city's commitment to climate justice work, and because it's the birthplace of President John F. Kennedy, whose Moonshot mission inspired the Earthshot Prize.

"I think what people may not know is that we're more than a prize — we're a platform for supporting innovators around the world and helping them on their journey to scale. And we're really ambitious," Jones says of Earthshot's higher purpose. "We're really all about, 'How do we make sure that this is the Earthshot decade?' "

RELATED: Kate Middleton and Prince William Are Heading Stateside! Earthshot Prize Announces Date for Boston Awards

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Calling back to Kennedy's iconic Moonshot speech in 1961, in which he pledged to put a man on the moon within 10 years, Jones says that Earthshot has the same aims of seismic change.

"He didn't just get a man on the moon and bring him home safely. It unleashed a wave of economic and social progress through innovation that was done to do that job," she explains. "We all believe, that it unleashed in the American people a mindset of being able to turn the seemingly impossible, possible, through human ingenuity, grit, and determination.

"We want to re-inject that in to say 'We can do that, all together' and that's why we're going to Boston," she says.

While addressing the crowd convened at the Earthshot Summit Wednesday via video message, Prince William confirmed that he and wife Kate Middleton will come to the U.S. for the illustrious ceremony in just a few weeks.

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"Although it is the saddest of circumstances that means I cannot join you in person today, I am pleased to join you in video form as you gather in New York for the Earthshot Prize Innovation Summit," Prince William said in a pre-recorded address. "During this time of grief, I take great comfort in your continued enthusiasm, optimism and commitment to the Earthshot Prize and what we are trying to achieve."

"Protecting the environment was a cause close to my grandmother's heart, and I know she would have been delighted to hear about this event and the support you're all giving our Earthshot finalists, the next generation of environmental pioneers."

"Both Catherine and I are so excited to be coming to Boston in December, and we look forward to seeing you all very soon," he concluded.

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