World’s top environmentalists call on foundations and philanthropists to use their financial power against global warming

Home » World’s top environmentalists call on foundations and philanthropists to use their financial power against global warming

160 leading environmentalists from 46 countries today called on foundations and philanthropists to use endowments worth billions of dollars to turn the tide on global warming. The group, all winners of major environmental awards, issued their call to action in an ‘Environmental Laureates’ Declaration on Climate Change’, published in the International New York Times, a week before world leaders arrive in New York for a UN Climate Summit.


“We, 160 winners of the world’s environmental prizes, call on foundations and philanthropists everywhere to deploy their endowments immediately in the effort to save civilization, say the laureates. The world’s philanthropic foundations, given the scale of their endowments, hold the power to trigger a survival reflex in society, so greatly helping those negotiating the climate treaty.”

They include figures with national and international reputations such as Aimée Christensen (USA), Paul Gilding (Australia), Prof Dr Ernst von Weizsäcker (Germany), Peggy Liu (China), Dr Harish Hande (India), Jeunesse Park (South Africa) and Dr Jeremy Leggett (UK) and CAT’s CEO Adrian Ramsay.

The European Environment Foundation (EEF), which circulated the declaration to prize- winning environmentalists for signature, will now write to foundations individually asking them to use their financial power to create a tipping point in climate action:

1. By investing directly in clean energy companies and low_carbon projects;

2. By withdrawing investments from fossil fuel companies or campaigning as shareholders for them not to develop new reserves;

3. By making grants to support clean energy start- ups and stimulate the development of low carbon markets.

Foundations have already begun to take action on climate change through the Divest-Invest coalition. It launched in January 2014, announcing that 17 organizations with assets of nearly $2 billion had committed to pull their investments out of fossil fuels and back clean energy instead. Dr Ellen Dorsey, Executive Director of the Wallace Global Fund and a leader of the coalition, welcomed the declaration. She said: “The escalating climate crisis threatens the programmes of every philanthropic organization. Growing numbers of foundations are shifting their money from fossil fuels to clean energy so their investments help solve this crisis instead of contributing to it. We hope that our stand will encourage others to take the urgent action we now need to prevent runaway global warming.”

In a full page advertisement in the International New York Times the environmental laureates warn that the world is “heading for 4C to 6C of global warming, given current policies on the burning of coal, oil and gas”, and say they are “terrified that we will lose our ability to feed ourselves, run out of potable water, increase the scope for war, and cause the very fabric of civilization to crash.” Their comments are based on warnings from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

In the declaration they argue that climate change on this scale will not only devalue or destroy all the good work done by the world’s foundations, it will also erode the worth of their huge endowments, leaving them with “stranded assets” in companies damaged by the consequences of global warming.

Dr Jeremy Leggett, the EEF Trustee who coordinated the declaration, said: “The world’s philanthropic foundations fund work which improves the lives of millions of people around the world, but if they want that work to last they can’t afford to ignore climate change. Investing in a clean energy future is the best way to safeguard their work and their finances.

“We hope this appeal will stimulate vital investment in a clean energy future, demonstrate support for an ambitious climate change treaty, and create space for a tipping point in climate action,” said Mr Leggett, who is a Hillary Laureate for Exceptional Leadership in Climate Change Solutions. UN Secretary_General Ban Ki_Moon has invited world leaders from government, finance, business and civil society to the New York Climate Summit on 23rd September, 2014, and has challenged them to make bold commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build political momentum towards a global climate change treaty at the December 2015 Paris Climate Summit.

The environmental laureates warn that time to prevent damaging global warming is fast running out and the Paris Climate Summit may be the last chance to agree a treaty capable of saving civilization. However, they say that foundations and philanthropists have the financial resources to respond on a scale that would materially increase negotiators’ chances of success in Paris.

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