Prince William’s Earthshot Winner Talks Meeting Two Future Kings and ‘Incredibly Kind’ Kate Middleton at COP26 – PEOPLE

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Sam Teicher, who's working to save coral reefs from damage, was introduced to world leaders by William in Glasgow, Scotland

Prince William is doing all he can to make a difference and save the planet — starting with introducing the innovators spearheading his decade-long Earthshot Prize initiative to world and business leaders in a position to support their groundbreaking work.

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William also made it possible for green entrepreneurs including Sam Teicher to share ideas with the likes of United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry and the Prime Ministers of Australia and of the Bahamas.

"It wasn't just a case of 'please meet these people and do your own thing,' he was hauling them over to come talk to us and making sure they were there to help us," Teicher tells PEOPLE.

Teicher and his longtime friend and colleague Gator Halpern are at the helm of the Bahamas-based company Coral Vita, which has found new ways to grow coral so that it can be put back into the ocean to aid in rebuilding of one of nature's natural sea defenses. Their work took top honors in the Revive Our Oceans category, winning them $1.3 million from Earthshot to scale up their work in the next 10 years.

According to Teicher, the prince, 39, was asking the Prime Ministers and Envoy Kerry how Teicher and Halpern could help their specific needs, telling them: "You make those asks and listen to Sam."

Prince William

Credit: Steve Reigate/Getty

"He was incredibly direct and forthcoming and generous," Teicher says. "His ability to cut through traditional protocol and just be very direct so solutions that are desperately needed can be implemented right away — or at least much more rapidly — is pretty incredible."

Now Teicher and Halpern and their colleagues are having conversations about where they can locate new coral farms and are in talks with senior leaders in the Bahamas to ensure their work can be carried out more efficiently and impactfully, noting that, "Those things are all really because of Prince William's leadership through the Earthshot Prize."

Prince William (C) and US businessman Michael Bloomberg (2ndR) stand with Earthshot Prize winners and finalists Vidyut Mohan (L) for Clean Air, Vaitea Cowan (2ndL) for Fix our Environment and Sam Teicher (R) for Revive our Oceans at the Glasgow Science Centre

Prince William (center) with U.N. Special Envoy on Climate Ambition and Solutions Michael Bloom (fourth from left) and several Earthshot Prize winners, including Sam Teicher (far right)

| Credit: ALASTAIR GRANT/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Kate Middleton also joined William and the Earthshot group at a reception following the world leaders' summit.

Teicher tells PEOPLE the Duchess of Cambridge, 39, was "incredibly generous, she was inquisitive and curious and William was going back and forth with her and us and she was really incredibly kind and interested in all the work we're doing."

After meeting Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Teicher admits, "I'm a bit of a history nerd — to meet two future Kings is quite something. Prince Charles was incredibly knowledgeable and engaged on the environment. This is something he's cared about for decades. It wasn't just small talk. It was actually asking questions, coming up with ideas and thinking about people we might be able to connect with and having a nice and meaningful conversation was really special."

Britain's Prince Charles, Prince of Wales (C) reacts as he speaks with Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge (R) at a reception for the key members of the Sustainable Markets Initiative and the Winners and Finalists of the first Earthshot Prize Awards at the Clydeside Distillery, on the sidelines of the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland on November 1, 2021. - COP26, running from October 31 to November 12 in Glasgow will be the biggest climate conference since the 2015 Paris summit and is seen as crucial in setting worldwide emission targets to slow global warming, as well as firming up other key commitments. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / POOL / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Prince Charles and Prince William

| Credit: DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/POOL/AFP via Getty

Even on the way up to the summit, it was clear that work of William's environmental prize was resonating. On the train north from London, Teicher got talking to a young woman who asked him why he was going to COP26.

"I said I did something with corals and her jaw dropped," he recalls. "We had masks on the train but I could see her eyes got big. 'Are you the guy from the Earthshot Prize?' It was very sweet — it was a bit embarrassing but also really nice. It turned out that she had watched the whole ceremony with her family."

Word of the chance encounter reached William, and shortly after he had congratulated Teicher and asked about his work, he noted how the innovator had been recognized on the train: "He could see the impact of his idea beyond the winners and finalists, and it was quite special."

Adds Teicher, "One of the most exciting things is there really is this emphasis on Generation Earthshot about inspiring everyone, particularly young people, that anything is possible and that you should go for it."

The meetings in Glasgow also brought the newly-awarded Earthshot winners together, with some of the other nominees -- creating something of a new community through which they can share ideas and help each other build their planet-saving projects. "I was so inspired by the other finalists and winner," Teicher adds. "The work that I and Gator do will be made better by knowing them."

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