Less than 3% of private donations go to environmental causes.

An interview with Climate Crisis Foundation


Posted By:

Emma Frost

Communications Manager

The Climate Crisis Foundation was set up by Yan Swiderski and Jasper Judd.

The initiative springs from a simple fact – that if everyone with savings or investments gave just 0.25% to effective climate change projects every year, we could unlock an annual budget of up to $350 billion to tackle the Climate Crisis and build our low-carbon future.

Ashden are delighted to be one of the organisations that the Climate Crisis Foundation supports, and before lockdown we had a chat to found out more about how and why they started:

How do you think philanthropy will be affected during these extraordinary times and how can we ensure that the climate remains a priority?

YAN: Clearly we are in a period of great economic uncertainty and are likely to have a world recession. In these times it seems likely that total philanthropic giving will be adversely affected just as the need for funds increases in many areas and it will be difficult to prioritise climate.

Having said that, over time, the pandemic and the response may well cause a rethink in many areas of human activity. We may see people re-evaluating their priorities and placing a greater emphasis on health and well-being. The optimist in me thinks we will find opportunities for societies to place greater value on family and health rather than materialism and economic growth. Such a shift would move climate and the surrounding issues up the philanthropic agenda.

What inspired you to set up the Climate Crisis Foundation?

JASPER: The three Trustees, (Yan Swiderski, Jasper Judd and Camilla Swiderska) we are old friends. We set it up because we were and remain concerned about the impact of climate change. We knew that many people were asking “what can I do about it?” and we decided we needed to give people an answer to that question. To provide an easy way to allocate some of their financial assets to effective climate change projects.

YAN: We felt that we could not stand by while the climate crisis worsened without doing anything. We knew that we could do something ambitious and it could be big enough to make a real difference.

How did you chose to support the organisations you do?

JASPER: We have developed a detailed methodology to assess the effectiveness of a large number of charitable initiatives trying to combat climate change. It began with a meta-study using research from a range of other organisations (Drawdown, Founders Pledge and the work of Hauke Hillebrandt). We then reviewed a range of sectors to find the most impactful on climate change, and then looked for leading organisations within those sectors.

We ranked these organisations on a range of different measures including Impact, Governance, Scalability, Innovation and Appeal. We are highly selective and have to date chosen only four organisations to recommend: Ashden, together with Rainforest Trust, Trillion Trees, and Client Earth. This number may increase over time, but it is unlikely we will exceed ten.

What are your most recommended tips for making sure the next generation has a sustainable planet to live on?

JASPER: There are lots of organisations out there telling people how to live their lives, what to consume and what not to consume. So, we think that is a space that is very well occupied. We simply want to channel private money into effective climate change initiatives because we think that it is how people with savings and investments can make the biggest difference.

YAN: Raising awareness and education are a key part of our campaign. Helping people understand the urgency is important, but it is just as important that people understand what action they can take. So, my key tip would be for people to understand that they can exert their personal influence to change things – we each have influence, some more than others. If we do not accept the status quo and try to change things that we personally can influence, then things will start to change. That may be at work or at home or in politics or in how we use our money – we all have some influence on the world.

How could philanthropy play more of a role in tackling the climate crisis?

JASPER: A tiny proportion of donations go to climate change initiatives – maybe 0.5% depending on how you define it. There are various barriers: the array of options seems endless, it’s not clear what is going to be effective, and there is concern over the free-rider problem. If people wake up to the fact that investment doesn’t have to be about personal financial returns, we can see a lot of people investing in returns that have global benefits. What I mean by that is that people have the chance to contribute to dynamic initiatives which can change the status quo and tackle climate change in a way that market solutions currently do not.

YAN: That’s an easy question: by supporting the Climate Crisis Foundation. We’re a new type of foundation because we’re trying to do more than raise money for climate initiatives. We’re working to change the financial system so that it will be easier than ever for people to contribute to tackling climate change with their savings and investments. I think that is really exciting, and if we can get enough people behind us then it will be potentially game-changing.

What’s been your biggest surprise since working in the sector?

JASPER: We first joined the workforce in Thatcher’s Britain, where the emphasis was on individualism. Our team now mainly comprises young people in their twenties. We have been struck by how dedicated this age group is to thinking about the broader impact they have on society and, indeed, to try and make a positive impact themselves. It’s a far cry from the eighties – thank goodness!

YAN: In almost equal measure: The number of amazingly generous and helpful people and then also the amazing complacency of otherwise intelligent people who can’t even see the problem.

What’s been your biggest obstacle?

YAN: Ignorance. It is still very frustrating that many people do not recognise the urgency of climate change and the need to act now. That’s why we focus a lot of our work on education as well as fundraising.

What cheers you up during difficult times?

JASPER: The knowledge that, together, we CAN make a difference.

YAN: My family, the people I work with and my dogs.

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