24 February 2021

European Climate Pact: an invitation to philanthropy organisations

By Elena Višnar Malinovská
Head of Unit, Directorate-General for Climate Action, European Commission

Philanthropy can play an important role in Europe’s green transition by supporting concrete action for climate and the environment, from boosting local grassroots projects to accelerating and scaling up societal innovation. The European Climate Pact launched as part of the European Green Deal is an opportunity for philanthropy organisations to bring their valuable support to initiatives from across Europe.

The European Commission launched the European Green Deal in December 2019 as a plan to transform the EU into a fair, healthy, sustainable and prosperous society and to repair the way in which we interact with nature. Alongside the policies and legislation needed for systemic changes, the success of the Green Deal also depends on the broad involvement and active contribution of all parts of society – from school children to city mayors, artists and business leaders.

This is where the European Climate Pact comes in. Launched last December, the Pact invites everyone to participate in climate action and in building a greener Europe. The Pact is about awareness and action. It aims to offer ways for people and organisations to learn about climate change, to develop and implement solutions, and to connect with others to multiply the impact of those solutions.

Already now, anyone can apply to become a volunteer Climate Pact Ambassador as an individual, and organisations can suggest a representative who would become an Ambassador on their behalf. The Ambassadors’ role is to inform, inspire and support climate action in their communities and networks. The first 180 Ambassadors have already started to act as bridges between the EU-level action and inspiring local projects from tree-planting, clean-up actions, biking challenges to awareness-raising or decision-making, and the Ambassador network continues to grow.

The Pact’s motto is that ‘every action counts’. To this end, we are encouraging commitments from individuals and organisations. Individuals can sign up for making concrete, sustainable steps in their everyday lives – for example through the Pact’s partnership with the global Count Us In campaign. Each action taken is added up to see global, aggregated CO2 savings, demonstrating how every step adds up to something bigger and thus encouraging others to join.

The Pact also invites organisations or groups of stakeholders to register or co-create their climate initiatives and turn them into climate action pledges. A pledge can be big and small. It could be related to the way the organisation operates, produces, communicates or motivates citizens, employees, customers or stakeholders to take action. It can also involve innovative processes to involve youth, schools or civil society in decision-making through citizen assemblies or grassroots initiatives aimed at making neighbourhoods green and sustainable.

Collaboration and co-creation across different parts of the society and economy is the recipe for success. Cities, businesses, NGOs and grassroots organisations are already cooperating around issues such as sustainable mobility or waste management.

But of course, in supporting climate action across European society, the Climate Pact itself is not starting from scratch. It will work alongside numerous existing initiatives, networks and movements, with the aim of offering a fertile ground for existing initiatives to grow and new ones to emerge. To do so, it will showcase existing solutions for inspiration and learning, help networks of climate supporters and communities realise their own climate ambition or join forces with others, and seek to scale up and replicate good ideas and projects.

For philanthropy organisations, the Climate Pact offers opportunities to make a tangible positive contribution to the goals of the European Green Deal. Many foundations and donors are already active on sustainability issues, and their expertise and resources can play an important role in catalysing and accelerating further action to support the green transition from the ground up.

In particular, there is a clear role for philanthropy in addressing the funding gap experienced by many initiatives aiming to boost action for climate and the environment in communities across Europe, that the Pact highlights. The Pact aims to facilitate access to funding by signposting relevant EU programmes and other sources. Philanthropy organisations are well placed to provide for example the kind of small-scale financing that is not always easily accessible from other sources but that can make a real difference in supporting concrete action, helping to scale it up and replicate it across Europe.

Conversely, projects already being realised by the philanthropies can become inspiration for others in Europe and beyond. Every action counts and together we can make it!