Catalysing engagement on climate action


Christina Ameln


‘Our house is on fire!’

Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenage activist, regularly reminds the world that she is still a child – yet faced with an awesome responsibility. She is waking up a new generation to the climate crisis that threatens our planet and its resources. By insisting that the time to panic has arrived, she gives new focus and energy to the climate change movement. Greta is adamant that we need to speak up, engage, innovate and take risks to address this crisis. Climate change cannot be tackled alone. Many are joining new and old voices to make an impact. These include membership organisation AVPN, who together with the Growald Family Fund (GFF) and other members, are looking at catalysing this movement.

Climate change and development
In the short time since I have returned to Southeast Asia, I have already witnessed a change in rain patterns. As the planet temperature changes, it impacts the natural cycle of rainfall, evaporation, snow, stream flow and other factors that alter the water supply. This impacts water quality as well as pollution levels – to name just a few knock-on effects.

Climate change is intertwined with development – poor people in low-income countries feel the impacts first and hardest. Why? Because these people are most dependent on the land, live in vulnerable areas and have less resources to recover losses and property. Simply put, if severe weather destroys the homes and crops of already-struggling farmers, they will have few to no options to get back on track.

Mobilising resources to fight climate change
While climate change has historically not been top-of-mind for social investors in Asia, AVPN is acting as an ‘accelerator’ of action.  It is motivating its members to increase the capital available to fight climate change, emphasising the power of collective efforts. ‘At AVPN, we are putting this topic up front as we recognise the need not only to cover the breath of investment approaches, but also the depth in social causes. As part of our Breaking Boundaries theme at the AVPN Conference 2019, addressing climate action will be a big part of the agenda’, Caroline McLaughlin, Director of Partnerships, AVPN

The Growald Family Fund is one of these ‘accelerators’ they are working with. Its mission is to catalyse climate innovation and leadership through venture philanthropy. Eileen Rockefeller Growald, Co-Founder and Chair says: ‘As philanthropists, we care about a range of issues from human health to children’s wellbeing to biodiversity to clean air. However, climate change poses the greatest risk to all the issues we care about’. She continues by explaining: ‘We believe that philanthropy plays a key role in nurturing new approaches to climate solutions, supporting objective analysis for use by governments and key partners, and building a vibrant civil society’.

GFF´s approach has three pillars, which deeply complement and reinforce each other:

  1. Collaboration: From experience it knows that one of the most powerful tools for change is collaboration. It is dedicated to engaging in and supporting deep partnerships and networks with other funders, think tanks, nonprofits, and academic institutions.
  2. Venture Philanthropy Portfolio: It identifies and funds a portfolio of grantees based on a venture philanthropy model. Through this, it provides multi-year core funding coupled with business planning and management support.
  3. Furthering the Field: It funds key research and often supports/hosts convening and networking events to promote strategic discussions.

In the words of one of its co-founder: ‘This support, together with the work done by governments and businesses, can help to create the meaningful transformation that is needed for the climate, as well as air and water pollution’.

Daring solutions
The challenges posed by climate change are not limited to weather patterns; they include humanitarian, environmental and economic trends, many of which will soon be irreversible.  GFF gives life to the essential message of Greta Thunberg: ‘With daring solutions, innovative approaches, bold vision and coordinated action, we can avoid some of the worst impacts of climate change.’

Since 2007, GFF has been promoting the financial and social opportunities emerging from the global transition to clean energy. ‘As electricity accounts for 42 percent of all global emissions, the shift to clean energy is an incredible opportunity to work towards sustainable and equitable development. We are dedicating our resources and our passion into moving away from the threat and towards the opportunity’, affirms Eileen. ‘Climate change is both the greatest challenge and the greatest opportunity of the 21st century’.

Shared climate challenges
Eileen maintains that: ‘Climate change is an issue vital to the Asia-Pacific region that is too complex to be solved by a single individual, organisation or government’. With this in mind, she looks forward to attending the AVPN Conference 2019 in Singapore. ‘We are inspired to explore our shared climate challenges with Asian philanthropists and other partners. This is a truly international issue – one that requires the energy, commitment and determination of people across the globe.’

Suffice to say: We are all Gretas after all – we all want to engage in keeping our ‘house’ intact.

To participate and contribute to the discussion on Climate Action related sessions, join the Growald Family Fund and other AVPN members National GeographicClimateWorksBrace and Circulate Capital at the AVPN Conference 2019 in Singapore from 25-28 June.

Christina Ameln is a Senior Advisor and Founder of Ameln & Co.

This article was originally published on the AVPN blog on June 11 2019. The original article can be viewed here.

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