Veteran broadcaster calls for economic and societal shift in mindsets to avoid catastrophe in interview as £50m Earthshot Prize launches
Climate change can only be halted by curbing "the excesses the capitalist system has brought us", Sir David Attenborough has said, as he called for a radical shift in western value systems to deal with the world's multiple environmental crises.
"We are going to have to live more economically than we do - and we can do that. I believe we will do it more happily - not less happily," the naturalist has said in a new interview. "I believe the nations of the world, the ordinary people worldwide, are beginning to realise that greed does not actually lead to joy."
The veteran broadcaster's comments come in a new ten-part BBC podcast series launched to mark the second anniversary of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) landmark 2018 special report on 1.5C warming today. The report triggered a shift in attitudes to global heating, outlining the starkly divergent consequences of keeping temperature rises within 1.5C versus 2C. It also demonstrated that the world could stay within the 1.5C boundary were carbon emissions halved by 2030.
Attenborough argued reaching such climate goals will require the standard of living in wealthy countries "to take pause", allowing for a more equal world to emerge. If "those who have a great deal have a little less," he said, the natural world would "begin to flourish again".
Attenborough also used the interview to lament the impact of Covd-19 in delaying climate action, for example by forcing the postponement of COP26 in Glasgow, labelling the pandemic "a disaster for all of us".
It came as the Earthshot Prize was officialy launched today by Prince William and the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, alongside the blessing of Attenborough.
First announced at the start of 2020, the £50m environmental award - dubbed the "most prestigious global environmental prize in history" - aims to select five examples of 'Earthshots', or simple but ambitious goals and actions to tackle the world's environmental challenges, every year between 2021 and 2030.
As many as five £1m funding awards will be handed out eah year over the next decade at an annual prize ceremony, with the first to be held in London in 2021. The five priority areas, each underpinned by scientifically-aligned targets, for the prize are: protecting and restoring nature; cleaning the air; reviving oceans; building a waste-free world; and fixing climate change.
As well as Prince William, the new prize is supported by expert organisations including Conservation International, waste charity WRAP, Fauna & Flora International and the Green Belt Movement. Each year, short films shared on social media will capture the inspiring work of each winner, the organisers said.
In a film set to accompany the launch of the Earthshot Prize, Prince William explains that "the plan is to really galvanise and bring together the best minds, the best possible solutions, to fixing and tackling some of the world's greatest environmental challenges".
"We've got to harness our ingenuity and our ability to invent," he will say. "The next ten years are a critical decade for change. Time is of the essence, which is why we believe that this very ambitious global prize is the only way forward."
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