Monday, 23 October 2023

I recently spent some long service leave in Europe. I directly experienced the impact of climate change in unexpected ways but also had the opportunity to meet with both the Chair, Klaus Milke, and the CEO, Stefan Schurig of F20.

F20 is the platform for foundations in G20 countries working on climate change and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation is a member of F20 and has had case studies on our heatwave response and community climate resilience work shared via the F20 platform. Philanthropy has an important role to play in a fast and fair transition to ensure we limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

F20 Chair - Klaus Milke, Lord Mayor's Charitable Foundation CEO - Dr Catherine Brown OAM, and F20 CEO - Stefan Schurig.

Reflecting on this year’s recent G20 forum, Klaus Milke reflected on the growing membership of F20, which is now over 80 foundations, including a growing membership from India (2023 G20 host) and Brazil (2024 host). There is a recognition that the global south needs a stronger voice on climate action and that bridges must be built between the global north and the global south. South Africa will be hosting the G20 in 2025 in further recognition of this. Australia also sits in the global south and can be another bridge builder. Our bid to host COP31 with the Pacific nations is timely and would give our climate transition even more momentum.

Some important philanthropic trends are appearing. Like a growing number of Australian foundations, some major international foundations that have not traditionally been environmental funders are understanding the broad impact of climate change on communities and are shifting their work to encompass climate across their work in other domains. At Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation we call this the climate lens and we have applied it since 2016 across health, housing, economy and other areas. As an international example, the Wellcome Trust UK is leading a major climate and health program.

I also met with Stefan Schurig, F20 CEO, and we discussed the key take outs for philanthropy from the recent Climate Week in New York. Three major themes require our attention: changing the narrative, a more ambitious renewable energy target, and the transformational power of sustainable finance.

Changing to a positive, evidence based narrative about the benefits of a fair and fast transition is an opportunity for philanthropy. It is hard to be what you can’t see. The community must be able to see what is possible. Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation’s long term support of the Foodprint project at the University of Melbourne is a great example of this. Over eight years the team led by Dr Rachel Carey has mapped Melbourne’s food bowl, identified climate stressors to our market gardens, had an impact on policy at many levels of government, and is now sharing a vision for a climate resilient foodbowl, helping build a network of climate transition practitioners taking this approach wider. The Moving Feast collaboration of food-related social enterprises is working to expand urban agriculture in Melbourne with benefits for employment, social cohesion and health. Philanthropy can also fund work that demonstrates what we can all gain from a shift to a zero carbon economy. Improvements in air quality, improved mental health from greening cities and more resilient local food bowls are just some of many win win benefits.

G20 called for a global increase in renewable energy to 60 per cent of power from renewable sources by 2030. Australia’s renewable energy sources now make up 35.9 per cent (April 2023). More than a quarter of that is from roof top solar which is outstanding. Philanthropy can fund innovative local renewable energy demonstration and research projects to support the required increase in renewable energy over the next seven years.

Sustainable finance calls to one of endowed philanthropic foundations’ core activities. Aligning our investments (both impact and across other asset classes) with our impact goals will result in our investments contributing to the climate transition. New building materials, new renewable energy technology and climate smart agriculture are just some of the areas to consider. With the advice of Cambridge Associates, Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation’s investment advisors, we have put in place new investments and overall will decarbonise the portfolio by 44 per cent this year. We are just getting started.

As I struggled up the steepish hills of Chianti in 32°C heat in October, I could only reflect that the impacts of climate change are being felt here and now. There was much discussion across Europe about housing that has not been built for heatwaves, about changing climates affecting viticulture and other agriculture production, and the need to speed up the use of alternative energy sources for  transport including shipping. It was heartening to see electric car chargers all over Paris and Hamburg.

The opportunity for philanthropy to make a difference at a local, national and global level through organisations such as F20, WINGS, AEGN and other peer networks cannot be overstated. Strategic use of endowed foundations’ ability to fund and invest in innovation and to help share a positive narrative about a climate safe future is a special strength we can offer.

Dr Catherine Brown OAM
Chief Executive Officer