‘Every foundation should be a climate foundation, and every foundation should have a climate lens’. This was the bold statement from Delphine Moralis, CEO of the European Foundation Centre (EFC), that kicked off the opening plenary of the annual EFC Conference. She further asked the audience whether or not they agreed with this statement. A vast majority of the audience raised their hands, agreeing that all foundations should have a climate focus, especially concerning the climate crisis. However, the reality is quite the opposite since only two per cent of Europe’s philanthropic giving goes to climate. With such a difference between what is being said and what is being implemented, I was curious to learn the gaps that philanthropy can fill when tackling the climate crisis and how the philanthropic sector can move us toward positive change when addressing climate.
This curiosity led me to follow the climate track of the conference moderated by Liz McKeon, Climate Action Portfolio Head at IKEA Foundation. Throughout these sessions, topics such as agriculture, air quality and the importance of intersectionality in a carbon-neutral future showcased what gaps foundations can fill. During the first session in the climate track, the session dived into philanthropy’s role in agriculture, food and land. The session started with the astonishing fact that 40per cent of food produced goes to waste and the number one solution to fighting the climate crisis is reducing food waste. Panellist Christophe Dierczsens, Global Public Affairs Manager of Too Good To Go, an initiative that aims to solve the issue of food waste by empowering everyone to take action against food waste— highlighted the impact of food waste on the environment. Too Good To Go is funded by philanthropy and is one of the examples of how philanthropy can fund projects that accelerate positive change.
While attending various sessions on the climate track, it became more apparent that foundations can play a significant role in effectively addressing the climate crisis by advocating for change through initiatives and projects that engage with the crisis. For instance, the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) exposed the global story of what is now known as ‘Dieselgate’, which showed that Volkswagen was cheating in the United States in emissions testing. This example highlighted an independent nonprofit organization’s role in the fight for clean air and transportation, which is a piece in the puzzle towards the fight against the climate crisis.
Throughout the conference, it became clear that there is a sense of urgency that foundations need to act now on the climate crisis and the other three crises (society, philanthropy, and democracy) raised during the conference. One of the many ways foundations can accelerate positive change is by supporting projects with radical approaches and projects that address the root causes of problems and not just the symptoms. Moreover, dealing with the climate crisis and the other three crises is intersectional as the climate crisis also addresses different philanthropic agendas such as health, education, and disadvantaged communities. Thus, dealing with the climate crisis in a meaningful, inclusive, and sustainable way involves environmental and non-environmental foundations.
Ashley Thompson is Online Communications Coordinator at European Cultural Foundation