How do you consider climate change in your work? – Global Greengrants Fund UK

As politicians and policy-makers struggle to tackle the devastation threatened by global warming, how central is climate change in the work of both environmental funders and those whose objects may not include the natural world, but who nonetheless see it as a top priority? We spoke to members about how they consider climate change in their work.

The fifth article in this series comes from Eva Rehse, Executive Director, Global Greengrants Fund UK

This series was first published in Trust & Foundation News.

Attitudes to funding work to address climate change have improved markedly in the last three years. European Foundation Centre mapping of European funding into climate and atmosphere, energy, and transport shows that it went up by 81% between 2014 and 2016 (http://bit. ly/EuroCCFigs). This demonstrates the urgency and growing awareness of the inter-connectedness of climate change with so many other issues. It relates to environment and science, but also to human rights, economic systems, how societies are structured, equality, social justice and development.

Many funders really want to understand how climate change is impacting their work, even if they are not involved in environmental issues. If you think in a silo – say, as an education funder – it can be hard to see how climate change can impact education. But if you think of it in a broader societal frame – what will access to education look like in a future impacted by climate change, how to raise climate change awareness – you start thinking with a climate justice lens. There are some good examples of European foundations where this interconnected strategy is successfully being employed, such as the European Climate Foundation and The Ashden Trust. But I realise it is not easy – it is a total change in some foundations’ practice.

The solutions that do get funded in the climate change space mostly go to very large-scale, top-down solutions. These are obviously needed but they tend not to target local communities with their own solutions, which is our approach. Our grant-making decisions are led by volunteer expert advisors from the communities we want to support. We have about 150 advisors around the world, organised in advisory boards – at country, regional or sub-regional level. We also have two boards at global level that operate with a thematic focus, including our youth advisors on the Next Generation Climate Advisory Board. Significantly, these young people chose to focus specifically on supporting youth-led climate change initiatives.

32% of the 105 grants we made last year were under the category ‘climate justice’, but almost everything we fund impacts climate change. For example, half of our funding goes to enabling people to live with and from the environment in a sustainable way, and so much of that is directly connected to climate change – how to deal with degraded soil, drought, flooding and so on.

Among our staff are 16 board coordinators across the world, who we get together every couple of years. That’s a huge issue for us, as it means a lot of air travel. We offset carbon to compensate for the emissions, but we also work with people who choose not to travel by air, so that can be a major logistical problem.

We limit our face-to-face time, but there is so much value in personal meetings that we try to maximise our time together, by meeting alongside conferences, for example. We rely heavily on technology, but it doesn’t always work, and some governments like to switch off the internet every now and then to suppress civil society action, which makes it harder for us.

In the past few years we have been working much more in collaboration with other organisations focused on grassroots climate solutions, coordinating capacity building, communication, and sourcing urgent and long-term funding. The main one is CLIMA Fund, a collaborative we started about three years ago including Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Rights, Thousand Currents and Grassroots International. We also have a partnership with on community-based climate change campaigns.

For funders who are interested in funding climate change, I would advise first looking at the funding ecosystem and working out where there are gaps. For example, transport is a really underfunded area in the UK and Europe, yet transport is responsible for such a high level of emissions.

We also need to think adaptation – there are communities who are really struggling today with the impacts of climate change, and communities in Europe who need to get ready for the impact of climate change in the future. These might be an easier access points for international funders already involved in development initiatives.

Training is important but underfunded. Communities want to understand the science and political frameworks of climate change, and how they can advocate for climate justice. In Europe, as well as elsewhere, the question is also how climate change will exacerbate inequality. A lot of thinking has gone into that in the academic field, but it has not yet translated into funding solutions.

The DivestInvest movement is part of the momentum and it is crucial for foundations to look at their investments. I would also suggest they look at travel policy and carbon offsetting, as well as talk to trustees and grantees about how they are considering climate change.

Eva Rehse
Executive Director
Global Greengrants Fund UK

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