Where is the sense of urgency about climate change?

Bevis Gillett

I found a sense of urgency missing in Matthieu Calame’s article, ‘The long march towards responsible money’, in the December issue of Alliance.

As the mission commander famously stated on the Apollo 13 mission to the moon in 2009, ‘we have a problem’ regarding a serious technical malfunction. Mission Control Houston could have responded, ‘if you’ve got a problem up there, we have a massive one back on planet earth!’ It is simply this: we are rapidly running out of options to stabilize the climate.

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If we believe the climate change experts, then what are the implications of this state of affairs for foundations in terms of their investment policies? One could argue that the first question they should ask is ‘what is the environmental impact of our investments?’ Will the emissions related to these investments keep within a 1.5 degree Celsius warming world? These questions need to come before any question of maximizing financial returns.

It has to be conceded that in most circumstances it is difficult to measure investments in terms of their carbon footprint. However, one clear way forward is to invest in renewable technologies, thus becoming part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

Following the COP 21 meeting in Paris, UN climate chief Christiana Figueres stated: ‘the investments that we are going to make globally over the next 5, 10, maximum 15 years will determine the quality of life of future generations; it is as simple as that.’

This reflects the sense of urgency, but a very serious problem remains of finding enough appropriate investments to make this challenging goal a reality. We need to work hard at this task.

Bevis Gillett
Vice-chair, Polden-Puckham Charitable Foundation, writing in a personal capacity

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