Funders for Just and Equitable Climate Solutions, a group comprising some foundation and movement representatives in North America, have published an open letter to Jeff Bezos asking him to consider some principles when spending the $10 billion pledged to his Earth Fund.
‘What is the role of a billionaire and other people of wealth – whose wealth has been derived from this fundamentally broken and rigged system?’ asks the open letter, which notes that responsibility to the wellbeing of the earth includes more than the mere pledging of funds to a cause.
‘Philanthropy is no substitute for justice’, states the letter, asking Bezos to consider paying a living wage to his employees, provide safe working conditions, stop engaging in union-busting activities, reduce Amazon’s climate impact, pay taxes, and advocate for higher taxes on corporations and the very rich.
Learning from the experience of grassroots leaders is also imperative, write Funders for Just and Equitable Climate Solutions. These actors have been working for many years to address root issues contributing to climate change, and a lot can be learned from their experience.
‘We have seen that it is a mistake for major donors to focus their giving on large and mainstream environmental organizations, the so-called Big Greens, often criticized for causing environmental harm through their false solutions such as carbon offset schemes that allow their corporate donors to continue polluting,’ the letter states. ‘But more than that, to truly combat climate change, we need local solutions developed by local leaders who are building resilient regional ecosystems and economies that will enable us to meet our needs in a post-carbon world.’
If the Earth Fund builds partnerships with grassroots leaders across the U.S., it has an ‘opportunity to do extraordinary work’, the group writes.
‘[A]ny funding dedicated to changing systems and confronting acute or chronic crises, whether the interlinked economic and climate crises or COVID-19, must not only distribute resources, but fundamentally shift power. Who makes the decisions, and how those decisions are made, will determine the fund’s success or failure.’
So far Bezos has made no response to the letter, which was published last week, according to Sofia Arroyo, Co-Executive Director at EDGE Funders Alliance. Funders for Just and Equitable Climate Solutions released a full version of the letter on their website, and an abridged version was published by the Chronicle of Philanthropy.