16 July 2021

Harnessing #PhilanthropyForClimate

On 1 July, the Philanthropy Coalition for Climate organised a European launch event of the International Philanthropy Commitment on Climate Change for the PEXcommunity. Hosted by WINGS, the International Commitment is a call to all foundations, regardless of mission, to come together and signal their commitment to act on climate. This is a significant milestone as we aim to create a powerful movement for change to mobilise philanthropy across Europe and beyond to address the climate crisis and social inequalities.

The climate emergency is here – we need to act now!

Climate extremes, from droughts and wildfires to storms and hurricanes, are already affecting millions of people around the world and their impact continues to grow. Global warming threatens our food, health, safety, livelihoods and economies. This growing climate emergency presents a risk to society as a whole and therefore a serious risk to the pursuit of philanthropic aims everywhere and in every area. But we can take action and make a difference – if we act urgently. Philanthropic organisations, which hold assets for the common good, have a special responsibility to use their resources, independence and influence to rise to the challenge. We need to act. And we need to act now.

Tackling the climate emergency: every foundation is part of the solution
Keynote by Isabelle Le Galo, Deputy Director of the Carasso Foundation

We invited Isabelle Le Galo, Deputy Director of the Carasso Foundation, an instrumental actor in building a movement for climate action across the philanthropic sector, to share with the PEXcommunity the urgent need for climate action from foundations and funders. Isabelle revealed the Carasso Foundation’s realisation of how dangerous the climate situation is as well as the philanthropic world’s potential for enabling necessary and transformational change.

If philanthropy fails to act sufficiently on climate, this poses a reputational and existential risk to the sector which shares a common goal of providing private resources for public good.

If philanthropy fails to act sufficiently on climate, this poses a reputational and existential risk to the sector which shares a common goal of providing private resources for public good. But, with climate still largely perceived as merely an environmental issue and less than 2% of global philanthropic funding channelled towards climate mitigation, how can we harness the untapped potential of philanthropy and empower meaningful climate action across the sector?

As Lars Grotewold from Mercator Foundation recently wrote: “Every foundation can – and should – be part of the solution.” This is not to say that every foundation should establish a dedicated climate programme rather foundations should build on what they know, reflecting on how climate intersects with their chosen topics and integrate a climate perspective across all existing programmes.

Jon Cracknell of the Hour is Late reminded us of the impressive resources and networks already available to foundations: Active Philanthropy, the Environmental Funders’ Network and the Climate Leadership Initiative to name a few.  The philanthropic sector should avoid further fragmenting the field by “trying to reinvent the flat tire.” By starting from where they are now and integrating a climate lens across their work, foundations can accelerate transformational change and implement a vision of human society respecting planetary boundaries.

The International Philanthropy Commitment on Climate Change: A starting point for meaningful climate action

The International Philanthropy Commitment on Climate Change is the culmination of a collaborative and inclusive global process. In January 2020, at the PEXforum in Madrid, philanthropy networks came together to discuss a shared concern for the growing climate emergency. Building on the experience of the Funder Commitment on Climate Change launched in 2019 in the UK, AEF and CFF established commitments which reflected their respective national contexts with the support of the Carasso Foundation and Dafne.

These national commitments across Europe now collectively represent alomost 250 foundations committed to act on climate. In 2021, this went global: with the help of Dafne’s Philanthropy Coalition for Climate, WINGS developed the International Philanthropy Commitment on Climate Change together with more than 40 philanthropy associations across the globe collectively representing over 22,000 foundations and funders.

Members and partners of the PEXcommunity read out the International Commitment

The International Philanthropy Commitment on Climate Change provides an accessible framework for foundations’ climate action. The Commitment’s seven pillars holistically cover the work areas of foundations, from committing resources to operations, from programmes to endowments and investments. The International Commitment is a starting point for foundations in their engagement with climate and WINGS, alongside regional champions such as the Philanthropy Coalition for Climate in Europe, will continue to build capacity and strengthen infrastructure to ensure that signatories can turn their commitment into action.  

The urgent need for ambitious climate action can easily seem daunting but, as the growing number of extreme climate events and their effects on lives and livelihoods demonstrate, inaction is not an option. Mobilising the philanthropic sector requires a collective approach built on peer exchange, lesson-sharing and cumulative knowledge. Through signing the International Commitment, foundations are taking a stance and joining a global movement of foundations from around the world on the journey to meaningful climate action.

Turning commitment into action: the role of philanthropy support organisations
Q&A with Jon Cracknell, the Hour is Late, and Carola Carazzone, CEO of Assifero in Italy, Chair of Dafne and Board Member of Ariadne

Philanthropy support organisations play a critical role in building bridges so that climate is understood as a cross-cutting issue that impacts every aspect of philanthropic work and in fostering the collective dimension required by the sheer magnitude of this crisis.

Carola Carazzone, Secretary General of Assifero, Chair of Dafne and Board Member of Ariadne highlighted the unique role philanthropy infrastructure can play, enlarging the capacities and knowledge of foundations, accelerating the learning process, disseminating solutions that work and finding positive narratives on climate change. Practically, this could include setting up peer exchange, building channels for information-sharing, providing access to support networks and embedding climate into regular communications work to keep these conversations going. By connecting the dots as well as encouraging ambitious action and bold collaborations, philanthropy support organisations can enable foundations to effectively tackle the dual crises of climate breakdown and deepening inequality.

Photo credit: René Spitz