Applying the lessons of Covid

Stefan Schurig

Covid-19 is a global vulnerability experience. The F20 platform can help philanthropy play its part in applying the lessons to climate change

While governments are currently trying to prepare for the worst impacts of the pandemic by agreeing stimulus packages and recovery programmes, one of the most important lessons from the Covid-19 crisis is that it is an unprecedented global vulnerability experience. Dealing with it is closely related to how we treat nature and the environment. The key to resilience lies not in trying to artificially sustain a destructive system, but in stabilising the environment, reducing pollution, and moving to regenerative agriculture and renewable energy.

Multilateral forums such as the G20 and the UN provide important frameworks for this transformation. That’s why it’s important that foundations play a big role in holding governments accountable and ensuring they keep their word.

The ‘European’ year 2021 is hugely important for the political agenda. A bold climate commitment by the G7 and G20 countries is within reach including zero-emission targets by 2050 and concrete steps to get there which can not only send a clear sign to the global financial markets but also set the bar for the UN Climate Summit in Glasgow. The UK and Italy, who are hosting the G7, G20 and COP26, have a huge opportunity to exhibit the necessary leadership especially with a new US administration finding its way back into the Paris Agreement.

These multilateral platforms should also conclude with a concrete action agenda on the concept of ‘shifting the trillions’ to close the climate finance gap between the current trajectory and goals of the Paris Agreement. Clear signs would be a ‘no new coal’ commitment or agreement on a mandatory disclosure of climate risks by businesses in their reporting and balance sheets.

In all the above, foundations and philanthropy have a key role to play regardless of their specific profile or programmes. First, individual foundations should present the G20 and the UNFCCC with a clear stand on climate and sustainable development. Second, foundations should encourage their peers and partners to do the same. Third, foundations should shift their investments and asset management towards future-proof sectors.

The key to resilience lies in stabilising the environment, reducing pollution, and moving to regenerative agriculture and renewable energy.

The Foundations Platform F20 offers philanthropic organisations an opportunity to combine forces to do this. Partners of the Foundations Platform F20 call for common action towards a zero-carbon economy and successful implementation of the SDGs. This support for climate action from a peer group of foundations and philanthropists is a powerful sign for governments and other stakeholders.

F20 therefore aims to influence multilateral platforms such as the G20. We closely follow the G20 tracks and working groups, issue regular briefings and scientific reports and provide concrete lists of actionable recommendations. We also seek to team up with other engagement groups – such as those representing business, think-tanks, labour organisations or NGOs – and to establish an open dialogue between philanthropy and governments of the G20 countries.

Headquartered in Hamburg, the Foundations Platform F20 is a network of more than 60 foundations and philanthropic organisations whose focus is on sustainable and inclusive economic activity based on decarbonisation and energy efficiency.

The Climate Solutions Week in September 2020 provides a good insight into our work: linking the finance, climate and sustainability agenda with the G20 and its priorities, and convening decision-makers from different backgrounds to jointly identify ways forward. The F20 platform also seeks to encourage and enable peer exchange among foundations on subjects related to sustainable finance, the climate-biodiversity-food-water nexus and the energy transition.

Helping to leverage the political momentum for climate action and a global zero-emission target by national commitments is at the heart of the mission of F20. We hope to play our part in transforming the ‘global vulnerability experience’ of the Covid-19 crisis into a ‘race to resilience’. In 2021, this means using the opportunities emerging from an EU Green Deal, UK COP presidency and the G20 in Italy.

Stefan Schurig is secretary-general of the Foundations Platform F20.
Twitter: @sschurig

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