The Duke of Cambridge has criticised the space race and space tourism, saying the world’s greatest minds need to focus on trying to fix the Earth instead.
Prince William’s comments, in an interview with Newscast on BBC Sounds, will be aired the day after William Shatner made history by becoming the oldest person in space.
The 90-year-old actor, known for his role as Captain James T Kirk in Star Trek, lifted off from the Texas desert on Wednesday in a rocket built by the Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s space travel company Blue Origin.
The prince, who was interviewed about the climate crisis ahead of his inaugural Earthshot prize awards, said: “We need some of the world’s greatest brains and minds fixed on trying to repair this planet, not trying to find the next place to go and live.”
He also warned the attendees of the Cop26 summit, where world leaders will gather in Glasgow at the end of the month, against “clever speak, clever words but not enough action”.
“I think for Cop to communicate very clearly and very honestly what the problems are and what the solutions are going to be, is critical,” he said. “We can’t have more clever speak, clever words but not enough action.”
William expressed his concerns about a rise in climate anxiety in young people, and said it would be an “absolute disaster” if his eldest son, Prince George, was having to talk about the same issue in 30 years when it would be too late.
“We are seeing a rise in climate anxiety. Young people now are growing up where their futures are basically threatened the whole time. It’s very unnerving and it’s very anxiety making,” he said.
He added that his father, the Prince of Wales, who is known for his longstanding commitment to green issues, had a “really rough ride” when he first started talking about the climate crisis.
William, who was interviewed by the Newscast presenter Adam Fleming, said his late grandfather the Duke of Edinburgh had started the royal interest in environmental issues.
He said of Charles: “It’s been a hard road for him. My grandfather started off helping out WWF a long time ago with its nature work and biodiversity, and I think that my father’s sort of progressed that on and talked about climate change a lot more, very early on, before anyone else thought it was a topic.
“So yes, he’s had a really rough ride on that, and I think he’s been proven to being well ahead of the curve. Well beyond his time in warning about some of these dangers.
“But it shouldn’t be that there’s a third generation now coming along having to ramp it up even more. And you know, for me, it would be an absolute disaster if George is sat here talking to you or your successor, Adam, you know in like 30 years’ time, whatever, still saying the same thing, because by then we will be too late.”
He added that his viewpoint had changed since he had children: “I want the things that I’ve enjoyed – the outdoor life, nature, the environment – I want that to be there for my children, and not just my children but everyone else’s children.
“If we’re not careful we’re robbing from our children’s future through what we do now. And I think that’s not fair.”
William discussed his Earthshot prize, saying it was about trying to create action.