He said that it was “wonderful” to be back in the city for the first time since 2014, adding that earlier attempts to return had been put back by the pandemic and death of his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth.
The prince took part in a fireside chat with previous Earthshot prize winner, Vaitea Cowan, during a summit at the Plaza Hotel on Tuesday in Manhattan, where he began by confirming that he had started the day with a quintessential New York activity.
“I decided to join the hordes of New Yorkers doing their morning routine as they went round Central Park. It was wonderful waking up in New York on a sunny morning after the rain we had yesterday, and it was beautiful getting some fresh air this morning,” Prince William said.
He explained that the success of the Earthshot prize, which is in its third year, was cause for optimism but that he was “impatient” to scale up the innovations that emerging from the competition.
“For me, something I haven’t quite cracked yet is how do we scale faster,” he said. “You guys provide the products and inspiration. My role is to get as fast and as scalable as possible. I think we still have some work to do.”
He pointed out that the prize “isn’t a philanthropic thing”.
“We’re doing this because the vast majority of these solutions are commercially viable,” he added.
He told the audience that Earthshot had been inspired by President John F Kennedy’s “Moonshot” challenge which drove space innovation in the 1960s and saw the United States put the first man on the moon.
Prince William pointed out that JFK’s project had resulted in inventions that we take for granted today, such as the X-ray.
Mike Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York and financial partner of the Earthshot prize, opened the event by welcoming the audience to the “greatest city in the world”.
He lauded the prince for his popularity in America after a recent poll discovered that 60 per cent of Republicans and 60 per cent of Democrats view the royal favorably.
“The US has not seen that bipartisanship since 1776,” Mr Bloomberg joked.
Advisers to the Earthshot prize, Dame Jacinda Ardern, the former New Zealand prime minister, and Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, also took part in conversations at the event.
Each of the 15 finalists, who span six continents, are in the running to receive one of five £1 million ($1.2m) awards in five categories - Protect and restore nature; Clean our air, Revive our oceans; Build a waste-free world; and Fix our climate.
The winners will be announced at a ceremony in Singapore this November.
Among the finalists are a community initiative from Peru that is working to protect native high Andean forest ecosystems; a British company that designs tyres for electric vehicles that reduce harmful particulate pollution; and a tech company from South Africa that helps small fishing communities make their catches more sustainable while earning a living.
The Earthshot Prize summit coincides with New York’s annual climate week and the United Nations General Assembly taking place across town.
On Monday evening, Prince William met with UN Secretary General Antonio Gutterres where they both expressed hope that the Cop28 climate summit, held later this year in Dubai, will deliver a significant outcome on reducing emissions, Kensington Palace said.
The Prince of Wales spent Monday afternoon getting waist-deep in New York harbour to learn about the Billion Oyster Project which returns restaurants’ discarded oyster shells to the waters in order to help with water filtration and create new habitats.