The European Environment Foundation, a coalition of a hundred and sixty leading environmentalists from around the world, has issued a call to action for foundations and philanthropists to use their endowments to help turn the tide against global warming.
In anticipation of the UN Climate Summit in New York City next week, EEF has published an Environmental Laureates' Declaration on Climate Change in the International New York Times. EEF, which circulated the declaration to prize-winning environmentalists for their signature, plans to write to foundations individually asking them to come together to create an inflection point with respect to climate action by investing directly in clean energy companies and low-carbon projects; reducing their investments in fossil fuel companies and, as shareholders, urging companies not to develop new reserves; and making grants in support of clean energy start-ups and the development of low-carbon markets.
Basing their concerns on warnings from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the signatories to the declaration warn that if current policies with respect to the burning of coal, oil, and gas are not changed, the average global temperature is on track for an increase of four to six degrees Celsius by the end of the century, which could result in large numbers of people around the globe losing the capacity to feed themselves, drastic reductions in potable water supplies, and increased conflict driven by resource scarcity. They also argue that climate change on such a scale not only will devalue or destroy all the work done by the world's foundations, it will also erode the worth of their endowments, leaving them with stranded assets in companies damaged by the consequences of global warming.
"The escalating climate crisis threatens the programs of every philanthropic organization," said Ellen Dorsey, executive director of the Wallace Global Fund. "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."
Dr. Jeremy Leggett, the EFF trustee who coordinated the declaration, said philanthropies cannot afford to ignore climate change. "Investing in a clean energy future is the best way to safeguard their work and their finances," said Leggett, who is a Hillary Laureate for Exceptional Leadership in Climate Change Solutions. "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."