European foundations commit $13 million to tackle planet and climate crisis


Charles Keidan and Andrew Milner


Four of Europe’s leading foundations tackling climate change have committed $13 million (€11.6 million) of funding to advance work to protect the ‘global commons’ – the areas and ecosystems of our planet on which we all depend such as the Amazon rainforest and the Greenland ice sheet.

The commitments have been made to the Global Commons Alliance by the Oak Foundation, Good Energies Foundation, MAVA Foundation and Porticus to enable the Alliance to deliver an ambitious agenda to identify science-based targets for Earth’s life support system over the next three years. Kristian Parker, a trustee of the Oak Foundation, and driving force in the foundation’s climate-related work, warned of the need for urgent action. ‘Unfortunately we are hurtling towards the limits of planet’s abilities to sustain life as we know it. We are breaching the boundaries of climate and those boundaries need to be clarified and communicated to the world. Therefore I applaud the efforts of the Global Commons Alliance in its efforts to transform our economic systems to operate within the planetary boundaries for the benefit of people and society.’

The new funding is in addition to $3 million already provided by these foundations as start-up funds in 2019, when they joined the Ikea Foundation, the Global Environment Facility and ClimateWorks Foundation in financing key components of the alliance.

‘We’re still powering our economic development by transgressing planetary boundaries. That’s depressing, but it’s the truth’ Professor Johan Rockström, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and a key figure in the Global Commons Alliance, told Alliance in a hard-hitting interview to mark the funding announcement. ‘We have to identify the hotspot systems on earth that we need to keep intact and then we have to collectively work on keeping them intact,’ Rockström added.

In a wide-ranging interview, the leading scientist urged philanthropy to increase its support for addressing climate change saying ‘Philanthropy spends 2 per cent on climate change. I think that number should be 20 per cent.’

Rockström also warned that vested interests were obstructing progress: ‘We have to recognise that there’s a war going on…there are very strong forces who are putting tremendous resources into manipulating developments in their favour – aimed at locking us into a fossil-fuel based status-quo. And they have so far been very successful. I’m talking about the vested interests of the oil industry, the coal industry.’

‘If you think of the money that is put behind defence or agriculture policies in the European Union, the amounts put behind climate science are ridiculous in comparison,’ he added.

Prof Rockström also used the Alliance interview to highlight three key steps to change course:

‘If I were to choose the three big shifts over the next 10 years, it would be transition to a decarbonised energy system, transformation to a sustainable and healthy food system and to have a global dialogue on the ethics of how 10 billion co-citizens can share the remaining space on Earth.’

On the latter point, Rockström, emphasised the need for a more equitable distribution of resources: ‘As we are starting to hit the ceiling of what the planet can cope with, one implication is that we have to share in a fair way the remaining space on Earth. What right do you and I have to have a material footprint that is about 10 times larger than an average Nigerian?’

The Global Commons Alliance aims to provide science-based targets for the whole of the earth systems from which governments and companies can derive quantifiable measures to arrest or reverse decay of those systems.

Read the full interview with Prof Johan Rockström interview here.

Comments (1)


Dear Sir/Madam, Just a quick note to inquire if there are any potential openings to support applicants pursue future study largely related to environment and biodiversity conservation. With this in mind, I' m really very keen to take up any future opportunity that may come a cross my way in near future. As of my education, I hold Master of Science in Wildlife Ecology and Biodiversity acquired from University of Klagenfurt, Austria in 2011. Of course, I have more interest to pursue my career in field of nature conservation with particular focus in the field of biodiversity and climate change. Please, I would also appreciate to receive any update in reference to the program as well. Grateful John

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