Teenage winner of Prince William’s Earthshot Prize tells COP26 of her generation’s anger over climate change

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Teenage winner of Prince William’s Earthshot Prize tells COP26 of her generation’s anger over climate change
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A teenage winner of Prince William’s Earthshot environmental prize has told the COP26 climate conference how her generation is “angry at leaders who’ve made empty promises and failed to deliver”.

Vinisha Umashankar was awarded £1million at the inaugural awards for her self designed solar-powered ironing cart, which is set to revolutionise charcoal-powered street irons that press clothes for millions of Indians each day.

The 15-year-old innovator and activist came up with the revolutionary idea after learning of the devastating health effects of local ironing vendors and the wider impact on air quality across the country.

At the gathering of world leaders on Tuesday including Boris Johnson, prime minister of India Narendra Modi and US president Joe Biden, Vinisha told the gathering the time had come “that we stop talking and start doing”.

Dwarfed by the size of the vast stage in front of an audience of hundreds, before she was given a standing ovation by the entire audience, she said: “The point is, that me, and my generation will live to see the consequences of your actions today.

“Yet none of what we discuss today is practical for me.

“You are deciding whether or not we’ve a chance to live in a habitable world.

“You are deciding whether or not we are worth fighting for; worth supporting and worth caring.”

Earthshot Prize finalist Vinisha Umashankar speaks during the World Leaders' Summit
Earthshot Prize finalist Vinisha Umashankar speaks during the World Leaders' Summit

Vinisha’s incredible solar-powered invention can not only power an iron for six hours from just five hours of sunshine, but has helped the vendors to be more mobile and diversify their business to offer built-in phone top up and charging points on their carts to bring in extra income.

Vinisha’s invention is especially significant in her native India, which is home to 22 out of the 30 most polluted cities in the world.

There are an estimated 10 million ironing carts in the country, with each of them using about 11 pounds of charcoal daily, taking a heavy toll on the country’s air and forests.

Judges from William’s Earthshot Prize council said Vinisha’s example showed that by innovating today, the next generation can create a cleaner tomorrow.

On being Introduced to the stage, William praised Vinisha for being awarded the prize money for “ just one of her many inventions”, adding her hard work “puts us all to shame”.

Hammering home her message for the global heads of government to take action before it is too late, she added: “Many of my generation are angry at leaders who’ve made empty promises and failed to deliver.

“We’ve every reason to be angry. But I’ve no time for anger. I want to act. I’m not just a girl from India. I’m a girl from Earth. I’m very proud to be so. I’m a student, innovator, environmentalist and entrepreneur but most importantly, an optimist.”

Launched by Prince William and The Royal Foundation in October 2020, The Earthshot Prize is the most prestigious global environment prize in history.

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