Philanthropy failing to combat climate change 23/11/09

Philanthropy is failing to make a significant contribution to combating climate change, finds a report published by the Environmental Funders Network (EFN) today.

The UK’s largest trusts and foundations directed less than 3% of their grants to the environment as a whole, and less than 0.3% directly towards reducing carbon emissions, the report finds.

Even philanthropists with existing environmental portfolios awarded less than 10% of their grants to climate change in 2005/6 and only 8% in 2006/7.

The report, Where The Green Grants Went 4 (WTGGW4), focuses on 97 UK-based trusts that make environmental grants of one kind or another.

Environmental issues remain a low priority for the great majority of UK charitable trusts, despite evidence that other grant-making programmes – on public health, international development, human rights, migration, and security – stand to be significantly impacted by climate change and related environmental threats.

Key findings of the report:

· At most, environmental funders only directed 9.4% to climate change mitigation in 2005/06 and 8.3% in 2006/07.

· The UK is lagging behind the United States - US foundations give more than four times as much on a per capita basis to environmental issues, and have increased their funding on climate change work by 483% between 2004 and 2008.

· Nearly two-thirds of environmental grants went towards food and agriculture, or conservation of landscapes and biodiversity - all areas that will be significantly impacted by rising carbon emissions.

Jon Cracknell, co-ordinator of the Environmental Funders Network, said: “Giants of philanthropy like Andrew Carnegie and Joseph Rowntree set their own agenda to respond to the great issues of their time. Climate change is the great issue of our time - an enormous threat to wildlife, landscapes and humanity.

"They showed how philanthropy can support innovation and catalyse change. It is this heroic spirit that is urgently needed given the scale and immediacy of the challenge we face.”

The report suggests reasons why trusts don’t engage more with climate change, including the fear that such work is too politicised, and the sense that systemic environmental problems are ‘too hard’ to tackle.

It gives examples of successful philanthropic interventions, including The Big Ask campaign masterminded by Friends of the Earth, and the Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy

The report shows that funders did increase their total environmental giving by 68% from 2004/5 to 2006/7, however environmental funding still only represents 3% of all UK grants.

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