19 November 2019

Call to take action on the climate crisis

by James Magowan, DAFNE

Could foundations find themselves on the ‘wrong side of history’ by failing to act in the face of the climate crisis? Associations and networks have a critical role to play: to demonstrate leadership, mobilise their members, and facilitate collaborative action – now with some urgency.

One of the standout activities at the UK Association of Charitable Foundations (ACF) annual conference ‘The Long View: Funding on a Finite Planet’, was the launch of a Funder Commitment on Climate Change. This initiative, backed initially by 14 UK foundations, aims to reach all funders irrespective of their funding priorities.  It recognises that the climate crisis is a responsibility for all – in particular those that have assets and resources for public good, in their control.

There was standing room only at the launch with foundations of all shapes and sizes keen to learn more and to sign up to the pledge, which commits funders to educate and learn; commit resources, integrate positive action; invest appropriately; de-carbonise operations; and report on progress.

Like the British public as a whole, people in charity funders want to see bold, positive action on climate change. This Funder Commitment gives a framework for all funders, whatever their mission, to play their part.

Nick Perks, coordinator of the Funder Commitment and former trust secretary at the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust

The climate crisis raises important questions for all foundations, whatever their area of interest. For example, there are clear links between poverty, inequality, human rights and climate change. Those who focus on specific localities witness the impact of climate change in many ways – from the impact on the environment (and of severe weather events), public health, transportation, energy production, land use etc.  Those with particular interest areas and groups can see how the climate crisis specifically impacts on them.  It is possible for all foundations to make a connection between climate change and their charitable objectives. ‘At ACF we believe that the climate crisis is real, it is serious, and all foundations should be intentional about their response; whether this is in setting strategies, discussing investments, or future funding plans. Because if we prevaricate, or fail to listen to the urgent concerns of young people here and across the world, I fear we could find ourselves on the wrong side of history when it comes to the climate crisis’ said Carol Mack, Chief Executive, ACF. ‘We fully support this Commitment. Over the next few months we will work with those who have spearheaded this effort, to inform members about it, and to build the community of practice around it’ she added.

At ACF we believe that the climate crisis is real, it is serious, and all foundations should be intentional about their response

Carol Mack, Association of Charitable Foundations (ACF)

The initiative has got some traction and generated interest across Europe.  Marie-Stéphane Maradieux, Executive Director, Fondation Daniel et Nina Carasso, who in September called for a philanthropic coalition for climate emergency and Social Justice, welcomed the Funder Commitment, saying ‘After the EFC Annual General Assembly in Paris last May, I felt a need for a stronger mobilisation of European foundations towards climate emergency linked with social justice. The idea of a “philanthropic coalition for climate emergency and social justice” is to engage European and national philanthropy platforms, as well as individual foundations, to commit themselves to tackle this challenge by changing their practices and reviewing their investment and funding with a climate lens. The UK pledge initiative is totally aligned with this urgent call for action’.

The Philanthropy Europe Networks Forum – PEXforum2020 – taking place in Madrid in January will provide an opportunity to take this forward.  In the meantime networks and funders can sign up to the pledge here.

Dr. James Magowan is Co-ordinating Director of DAFNE.