Invest In Our Planet

An Earth Day Call

Denise Charlton, Chief Executive, Community Foundation Ireland reflects on the role of Climate Philanthropy.

Once again global leaders, campaigners, advocates and researchers are marking Earth Day with events to increase awareness about the emergency in the environment and nature.

A fixture in the calendar of governments, environmentalists, researchers and increasingly corporates April 22nd is a day to make promises, guarantees and commitments. It is a sad reality that many of these public proclamations will either fall short of their goals or simply not happen at all.

Within days they become just a memory, over-taken by other pressing matters not least the cost of living, political uncertainty and a world once again haunted by conflicts and their impacts.

Yet climate is undoubtedly the greatest challenge of all to our communities, our country and our planet. It sets the landscape and the backdrop against which all other events unfold.

Strategic Climate Action

Getting to grips with the climate and nature emergencies requires strategic, pioneering and long-term policies. Ones which are not dependent on the latest election cycle or the roller coaster of international markets. It is time to look at the big picture and set a course which has longevity.

Such an approach requires a break-away from the tried and tested responses which have to varying degrees proven successful in responding to day-to-day issues but not those of a magnitude which threatens our very survival.

Developing these longer-term, strategic and often braver responses lies at the heart of philanthropy.

It is a form of giving which allows ground-breaking and new approaches to research, advocacy, policy and mobilisation.

At Community Foundation Ireland we have seen that impact across many areas from rights for women, migrants and members of the LGBTI+ community to giving new opportunities to children trapped in poverty or empowering older people when their voices are brushed aside or ignored.

In recent years we have also brought that leadership to motivating more than 200 communities to draw up and implement local Biodiversity Action Plans and scores more to move away from the throw away society by embracing the Circular Economy.

We have been greatly encouraged by what has been achieved not just through our partnership with communities but also the expertise of groups like the National Parks and Wildlife Service. This coming together, these partnerships lie at the very centre of our approach to philanthropy.

Climate Philanthropy

Like other philanthropic organisations we are now looking to grow our commitment and impact in this area. Driven by demand from donors, feedback and insights from our 5,000 voluntary, community and charitable partners across Ireland as well as the best researchers in the country we are committed to do more.

It is estimated that worldwide 2% of all philanthropy is focused on climate action. It may be about $8 Billion a year but it pales in comparison to the trillions needed to reverse the damage done and stop our headlong race into a future full of unknowns.

The levels of donations are increasing and we are seeing that from our donors too. Increasingly those who give €22 Million a year to the Community Foundation to support our equality mission want to support a sustainable future.

This generosity is allowing us not only to grow our work with communities but also to work with experts at Trinity College Dublin, the National Biodiversity Data Centre and many others to identify the actions needed to end the crisis.

We also support those organisations who hold Government to account and ensure that Ireland honours its national and international commitments.

Above all philanthropy puts in place the resources and the mechanisms for all these groups to unite together and work towards a common goal.

Growing Impact

What has been achieved is remarkable given the relatively small investments involved. However, we remain some distance from those strategic and long-term policies which will ultimately deliver the vision and response needed.

The Community Foundation was founded with Government seed funding of €1M in 2000. Since then thanks to the generosity of our donors and supporters this has grown into €130M in grants for communities and a further €50M in an endowment fund to future proof our work.

We believe this model provides a blueprint for the longer-term.

As a Foundation we are ready to work with Government through the provision of private donations and public funding to establish and grow a National Climate Action Endowment Fund – one which would guarantee climate action into the future.

Such an approach would set up Ireland as a leader in this space and offer an example for others to follow. This is the type of forward planning needed not just on Earth Day but every day.

Denise Charlton is Chief Executive of Community Foundation Ireland, a philanthropic hub which has provided over €130M in grants to communities since 2000 in support of an equality mission.

Climate Philanthropy and You

If you are interested in Climate Philanthropy then please check out our Strategic Giving Section.