He made the admission after poking fun at the Pope – and then regretting it – over energy loss at the Vatican during a visit to Europe’s largest climate change tech hub in London today/yesterday.
The heir to the throne was learning about a satellite thermometer which measures energy loss from space. When Tobias Reinicke, chief technology officer at a company called Satellite Vu, showed him images of thermal energy hotspots taken from space of Rome and singled out the Vatican, William chuckled.
“Oh ho,” he laughed. “That needs some insulation. We must tell the Pope!” But when Mr Reinicke turned to him and remarked: “We’d [also] like to look at palaces and castles,” the Prince replied ruefully: “I shouldn’t have made a joke about the Pope.”
He admitted that older buildings such as Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle were problematic.
“It’s older buildings, that’s where the biggest problem is. They were built a long time ago. Insulation is a big challenge,” he said.
He suggested that was something the Royal Household needed to look seriously at in the future. “But amazing that you guys can map it and give solutions,” he added.
The future King was visiting Sustainable Ventures, Europe’s largest climate change tech hub, to learn about its work helping to bring together innovators and finance to scale up small businesses providing green solutions.
He peered closely at images taken of Chicago which were so detailed they even showed hot tubs in use. “I love that it’s possible to track hot tubs,” he said.
He also chatted at length with Gunnlaugur Erlendsson, the brains behind Enso, a company that makes more environmentally-friendly tyres for electric cars and is a finalist in William’s Earthshot Prize this year.
The prize awards £1 million to five annual winners over 10 years to develop solutions to the planet’s greatest environmental challenges and will hold its third annual awards ceremony in Singapore next month.
“I’ve heard a lot about you, now that you are a finalist,” the Prince said.
“It’s an absolutely amazing honour to be nominated and the benefits are already being seen,” Mr Erlendsson, whose firm is nominated in the Earthshot Clean Our Air category, replied.
He explained that in London alone, 9,000 tonnes of invisible tyre dust is produced every year, that goes into water supplies as well as our bodies.
“It’s in the interests of tyre manufacturers to sell us more tyres, get more of them on the road. We want to make them better. Our message is optimistic. We want to change the process,” he said.
“You are educating people,” William replied.
“I think most people will have no clear concept about how polluting tyres are. It’s amazing what you are doing. “
The Prince also chatted eagerly with Ehab Sayed, CEO of Biohm, a bio-manufacturing firm that creates building material from food waste.
“That’s solid,” he said tapping a piece of material made from mushrooms, incredulously at the concept. “It’s crazy.”
Outside London’s County Hall he posed with an electric taxi which sported Enso tyres. William waved to crowds that had gathered, shocked at seeing him in the street.
Mr Erlendsson said afterwards: “Tyre pollution is a massive problem because we breathe invisible tyre dust which is generated every time we drive. Currently we are breathing more of this tyre dust than the dust that comes from telecoms. That’s really alarming as it’s small enough to enter our lungs and even get into our brain. So we need to reduce this powerful material.
“Being recognised by Prince William in the Earthshot prize is an amazing recognition of not just Enso but also of this problem we all need to tackle.
“Earthshot has been a game changer for us. It’s the leading prize for the planet and when you are nominated for something like this it is a recognition that goes across all borders. We have been inundated with requests and positivity from within the automotive industry and beyond.
“Talking about tyres is the first step to recognising this is a problem that needs to be tackled. We are so grateful.
“The Prince knew a lot about the problem, the conversations was so inspiring, full of optimism and hope. The fact that he can bring the leading thinkers in this industry to upscale solutions is amazing.”
Andrew Wordsworth, managing partner of Sustainable Ventures, commented: “The Prince of Wales is known for his dedication to suitability. It’s inspiring for Sustainable Ventures’ members to know that someone of his influence understands that they need to scale to have impact in the next decade. He has shown by his actions that we need optimistic solutions.”