Sunday 23, April 2023

An Earth Day Challenge

Chief Executive Denise Charlton writes on the importance of philanthropy is responding to the climate and biodiversity emergencies.

A Call to Partnership

‘Invest in Our Planet’ is the global Earth Day rallying call for Governments, Business and Civil Society to act in partnership to combat the impacts of climate change and the biodiversity emergency.

The extent and the enormity of the challenges facing our communities, our country and our planet are now plain for all to see. Increasing regularity of extreme weather events and the disappearance of native plants and wildlife, which many of us grew up with, tells us this is real.

Summers of water shortages and wildfires, winters of extreme Atlantic storms, sudden flooding of villages, towns, cities and farmland are all happening more often, and frighteningly so.

Globally, droughts gripping entire regions of Africa, island nations slipping into the sea and human exploitation threatening rain forests, polar ice caps and entire oceans are not only wiping out plants and animals but also forcing men, women, and children to flee their homelands.

Sustainable Futures

Community Foundation Ireland has long recognised that partnership is the only feasible approach to these enormous challenges. Under the banner ‘Sustainable Futures’ we work with motivated communities and experts, as well as private donors, business, and Government.

Inspiring projects are supported. A generation is turning its back on fast fashion by styling without waste, towns are progressing towards carbon neutrality while bikes, mattresses, light bulbs, and medical inhalers are repurposed and recycled. All made possible by our Circular Economy grants delivered with Government.

Protecting and promoting our plants and wildlife is central to ending the biodiversity emergency. Together with the National Parks, Wildlife Service, and private donors we have ensured almost 200 communities have local biodiversity action plans. Each represents a coming together of local people, landowners, and farmers as well as experts.

Making policymakers locally, nationally and globally prioritise climate and biodiversity actions is key. This is why the Foundation and its donors are major supporters of advocates and champions committed to awareness raising, education and holding policy-makers to account.

Next Steps

While progress, motivated by local communities, is being made there remains a lot more to do. The volumes of expert reports highlighting the precarious of the situation is added to on an almost weekly basis.

It is clear the decisions and actions we take now will have implications for hundreds of years to come.

As a philanthropic hub for Ireland, the Community Foundation is committed to build on our work with donors and communities. Together we recognise that our sustainable futures focus needs to grow and expand so it covers all areas of our work as we advance our mission of equality for all in thriving communities.

This approach reflects a recognition that we cannot end poverty, end discrimination or end injustice without including and taking climate and biodiversity action.

Adopting the theme of Earth-Day we will build on our existing partnership approach. Working with Communities, Donors, Corporates and Government we are ready to respond to the challenge to Invest in Our Planet.

Increasing awareness and education to ensure all policy commitments are met including our international obligations. Using existing and new relationships with leading experts and advocates we will identify fair and equitable ways to respond.

We will ensure best in class research. Following the science must be more than a cliché.

Whether examining the impact of climate change on jobs and communities, identifying sustainable ways to transfer to renewables or empowering citizen scientists to protect our wildlife, we will build up the research and evidence to ensure all decisions are not just informed but are also just.

We must ensure that no community or sector is unfairly asked to shoulder responsibilities. Partnership must mean everyone.

Role of Philanthropy

Philanthropy has much to offer in addressing these challenges. Since the year 2000 we have seen the power of private funding to deliver social change which otherwise would not happen. Our donors have powered LGBTQ, Migrant and Traveller rights, shaped national policy on sexual violence and put energy and inter-generational poverty at the very top of the national agenda.

Solution focussed, flexible and agile, we can and do support work which others are either unwilling or unable to support.

As a philanthropic hub we also offer the opportunity for Government to increase the impact of its efforts by entering into match-funding arrangements, such as those which already exist on biodiversity and the circular economy.

The call to Invest in Our Planet comes as a new National Policy on Philanthropy is being finalised. The policy should specifically focus on how private funding can be leveraged to support climate and biodiversity action. We continue to work to ensure this happens.

On this Earth Day we encourage all donors, and new donors, to reflect on the role you can play in ensuring the delivery of sustainable futures. Our team is always ready to discuss and provide you with more information. They would be delighted to hear from you to continue the conversation

The time for action is now, and it requires everyone to play their part.

Denise Charlton is Chief Executive of Community Foundation Ireland, which since 2000 has delivered more than €110 Million in grants to communities supporting a mission of equality for all in thriving communities.