Paris: a stop on the journey, not its end

Nnimmo Bassey, Terry Odendahl and Michael Northrop

We hope that readers of the essays in this issue see renewed commitment, hope and determination about philanthropy and civil society’s role in addressing the profound threat that we face. While each of us brought different perspectives and viewpoints, we believe that there is an increasingly broad consensus on climate change and climate philanthropy after Paris.

  • The Paris Agreement was an important first step. We have agreed there is a problem, and agreed that we need to work towards a solution. The world has spoken and the world has listened. The devil is in the details, as they say, and we can and will continue to tangle over the details, but at least there is a world consensus that action must be taken.
  • Emissions need to be cut sooner – with peak emissions no later than 2020 – or we will pass 1.5 °C. We are running out of time to avoid even more serious impacts from climate change. We need deeper and faster emissions cuts than were agreed to in Paris. We all agree that it is a problem that the cuts proposed in the Paris Agreement were ‘voluntary’ and non-binding.
  • Local people and local governments – especially mayors and governors – can lead the global push for stronger action and deeper emissions cuts. Some of us want the focus on localized action and support to be dramatically increased. We see local solutions in grassroots and indigenous cultures that we want highlighted.
  • Divestment from fossil fuels is a viable strategy to influence public policy. Foundations, universities and other asset holders must accelerate this push. That requires bold action. Some of us think we must publicly and aggressively confront the fossil fuel industry in order to make an impact on emissions.
  • At the same time that fossil fuel investments – especially in coal – are being dialled back, investment in clean energy solutions is being mobilized in impressive ways globally. This trend needs amplifying.
  • Civil society groups need more funding to increase the pressure. This funding can help advance public policy, encourage clean energy investment, broaden divestment movements, and launch civil actions to create change. Some of us go further and want funding to be more intensely focused on advocacy, including civil disobedience and other forms of direct and confrontational democracy.

‘As we continue the journey from Paris, what we find most hopeful is an increasing realization that philanthropic foundations have key roles to play, and can be much more determined and intentional in their engagement.’

As we continue the journey from Paris, what we find most hopeful is an increasing realization that philanthropic foundations have key roles to play, and can be much more determined and intentional in their engagement. The financial power of the industries that are causing climate change dwarfs the financial resources we philanthropists bring to the table. By working together, we can amplify the voice and power of civil society and ensure that the necessary measures are taken before it’s too late.

Nnimmo Bassey, Terry Odendahl and Michael Northrop are guest editors for the June issue of Alliance.

Lead image: High water on Piazza San Marco, Venice, in November 2010. This happens several times each year due to rising seas.


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