F20 is a platform for foundations for G20 countries working on climate change and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation was the first Australian member and we have learned from high-level meetings, online workshops and shared resources. Our work building resilience to heatwaves has been shared widely. WINGS is the worldwide network for grantmaker support, which has also led work on climate change philanthropy. The Foundation was the first Australian signatory to the International Philanthropy Commitment on Climate Change.
It is six years since I attended COP21 as part of a climate Funders Initiative hosted by the European Climate Foundation and Environmental Grantmakers Association US. Six years since I came back to Australia very clear-eyed about the impact of climate change across our work. Despite a lack of urgency in our public conversation in Australia then, many parts of the world were already dealing with challenges such as sea level change and crop failures due to unprecedented weather. COP21, where the Paris Agreement was signed, was a tough gathering. Emotions ran high and low as everyone wondered what could be achieved to avoid warming above 1.5 degrees.
Early in 2016, I recommended to the Board that we place a climate lens across all our granting. This has not changed and our commitment remains strong. Climate change philanthropy is about asking two questions: how can we reduce emissions or increase climate resilience across our programs. It is a recognition that climate change is not only an environmental issue, it is a social, economic and health issue too. As we transition to a zero-carbon economy, philanthropy has a special role to play in supporting a just transition. We have recently supported ACOSS' work in this area.
By embedding a climate lens across our work in 2016, we recognised that climate change would affect everything we were working hard to improve. It would impact housing, food, employment, health and disaster response. It would increase the demand for support from the charitable sector. Over the last six years, the urgency for climate action has only grown. We have focused on positive steps and on long-term collaborations so that through our work we are building resilience and demonstrating what is possible in our transition to a zero-carbon economy. Change takes time but our persistence and deepening knowledge and networks place the Foundation in a leadership position in climate resilience.
We know that housing, energy efficiency and climate safety is the future. We require all affordable housing projects that we fund to demonstrate a commitment to sustainable design and high Green star ratings. Ozanam House was the first project with this commitment and it remains a good example. Other affordable housing projects we have funded have followed. This year, Renew played a major role in achieving the first increase in emissions rating standards for new housing via the National Construction Code - from 6 to 7 green stars. The Foundation has supported Renew's work for five years.
Our work in food transitioned from a focus on food security to a sustainable and secure food system when we first funded the FoodPrint project at the University of Melbourne. Over the years, FoodPrint has mapped Melbourne's food bowl, identifying where important agricultural land is at risk on our urban fringes and where opportunities to drought proof through recycling water is possible. This critical work continues with key government agencies and community organisations. The FoodPrint work is internationally renowned.
In addition to this policy work, The Foundation is also funding sustainable food projects and networks, including most recently capacity building for the Willum Warrain Aboriginal Bush Nursery.
We embraced the concept of a Clean Technology Powerhouse as advocated by Prof Ross Garnaut in his book Superpower (La Trobe Uni Press, 2019). In addition to the work of Beyond Zero Emissions and many others, we supported the Smart Energy Council to run webinars with experts from around the world to share and gain knowledge about these opportunities. Last year we introduced the Next Economy Jobs Initiative which is focused on job creation projects and social enterprises working in renewable energy, green waste, clean tech and other sectors where jobs will grow in the future, for example, the caring sector.
Health & Resilience
The Foundation has a long history supporting positive health outcomes for Melburnians. We recognise that health issues can be directly linked to climate change, especially in preparing for and responding to heatwaves. Older women, children and people with physical disabilities can be especially vulnerable to heat and those facing financial disadvantage are less likely to be able to afford to cool and insulate their homes. The Hot Spots Initiative has grown steadily through key place-based projects over several years where we supported enliven in Dandenong, IPC health in Brimbank, co-health in inner Melbourne and later Banksia Gardens in Broadmeadows, to work with vulnerable residents to prepare for heatwaves. This has extended to a powerful new piece of work, Mobilising Climate Just and Resilient Communities in Melbourne’s West Collaborative Action Plan, we supported that has just launched today by Jesuit Social Services’ Centre for Just Places which sets out an action plan for the west of Melbourne.
The experience of the last few years with bushfires, the COVID-19 pandemic and floods has demonstrated the critical importance of the charitable sector, especially local organisations responding to the needs of local communities. The Foundation will continue to support organisations as we face more unstable weather conditions. The Foundation is a founder of the development of a Collaborative for Community Climate Resilience which we are working on with the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal, Emergency Management Victoria, Southern Grampians Glenelg Primary Care Partnership, and the Victorian Council of Social Service. The project will create a Hub of information and resources for local community groups wanting to learn and implement local climate resilience networks.
As a community foundation, the Foundation listens to the Melbourne community, experts and our collaborating organisations and gathers data to inform our work. We also learn and exchange ideas with our colleagues in philanthropy here and overseas. We know our climate transition requires collaboration across all sectors. Philanthropy has a special role supporting people facing disadvantage and funding innovative programs and policy.
Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation will be working on climate change until a just transition is achieved.
Dr Catherine Brown OAM
Chief Executive Officer
Article image: Community members gather at Willum Warrain Aboriginal Bush Nursery.