By Edward Dean, Ashden Director of Development
We only have a few years to avert climate
catastrophe. But right now, only a tiny fraction of donations from charitable
trusts and individuals in the UK go to tackling the climate crisis. We can’t transform
energy networks and transport systems without also rethinking the way we give.
And just like the wider struggle against climate change, we all have a role to
The lack of giving is made
shocking by fact that public concern about climate change has reached record
levels – driven by images of burning Amazon rainforests, coverage of
extreme weather and higher average temperatures at home and abroad. Climate
activism, from protests by Greta Thunberg and the school strikers to direct
action by Extinction Rebellion, fuels calls for action.
This action must include new
campaigns, funds and investment products that help donations flow where they
are so urgently needed. Philanthropic giving is often a catalyst for further
investment from social-impact investors and mainstream backers. So philanthropy
plays a crucial role in fostering innovation – growing the fresh, bold ideas we
so desperately need.
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Sustainable energy innovation: the Ashden effect
That’s why we’re working with the
Climate Crisis Foundation on its Parents Pledge campaign. This new initiative aims to unlock up to $350 billion for
climate change projects, by shaking up our approach to savings and investments.
It’s the sort of ambitious, big-picture thinking needed to tackle the
Climate giving: data shows we’re
So how much are we giving at the
moment? New research from the Environmental Funders Network shows that in 2016 UK
foundations gave £105 million to environmental causes, and of this only 3.5%
went to climate related work. Just a drop in the ocean when over the same
period UK foundations handed out a total of £6.5 billion, according to the Association
of Charitable Foundations (ACF).
Individual giving is also falling
woefully short. The CAF 2018 UK Giving report revealed that of the £10.3
billion given to charitable causes in 2017, only 5% went to the very broad
category of ‘conservation, environment and heritage’. These low numbers just don’t match the urgent
warnings of climate scientists, who have shown we’re risking irreversible
change to life on earth.
But pressure is building, and change
is happening. This summer saw the launch of the National Lottery’s £100 million
Climate Action Fund, and the establishment by hedge fund Quadrature Capital of a
$100 million climate focussed foundation. The Climate Emergency Fund, created
by a network of activists and wealthy individuals, has already made a £350,000
donation to Extinction Rebellion.
Parents Pledge targets global shift
This wave of action includes the Parents Pledge. The initiative springs from a powerful fact – that if everyone around the world with savings or investments gave just 0.25% of that money to climate change causes every year, we would unlock an annual budget of $350 billion to fight the climate emergency and build our low-carbon future.