Financial assistance

Rapson: COP26 reminds us that every foundation, administration can have a significant impact on climate change


We will all be reading and seeing coverage over the next few weeks on the vitally important conversations – and, hopefully, decisions – emerging from the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. For those who may not be familiar with it, the UK is currently hosting the 26th United Nations Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (COP26) from October 31 to November 12.

I would like to add a few comments on the edges.

First, President Biden set the tone – and, hopefully, the decor – on exactly the right terms..

He noted upon arriving: “To state the obvious, we meet the eyes of history on us and with deep questions ahead of us. are we going to act? Will we do what is necessary? Will we seize the huge opportunity before us, or will we condemn future generations to suffer? The decade will determine the answer.

Following his promise to act, the Biden administration announced on Tuesday that for the first time, the Environmental Protection Agency intends to limit methane from about 1 million existing oil and gas platforms in the United States. This announcement shows that the United States is committed to mitigating climate change.

Second, the urgency to act, beyond rhetoric, seems to have set in.

Conference attendees heard – and will continue to hear – from the United States a commitment to halve greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade. Build Back Better infrastructure and bills would deploy $ 555 billion to accelerate this country’s investments in green infrastructure, renewable energy sources and electric vehicles, among others. Once the legislation is adopted, it means a commitment from the private sector in that country to provide technical and financial assistance to the adaptation challenges felt by vulnerable communities.

Third, the political and financial complexities of climate finance will take center stage.

The question will probably arise as to whether “developed” countries are able and ready to deliver on their commitment to mobilize $ 100 billion per year to help “developing” countries reduce their emissions and adapt to new climate realities. . As difficult as it is, and will be, to agree on the dramatic reduction in emissions needed to avoid the dreaded 2 degree Celsius increase (not to mention the 1.5 degree cap set in the Paris Agreement). on climate), it can be just as difficult to agree on investments of this magnitude. Put the keys to the absence of China and Russia in the mix, and you have the makings of an unseemly and infuriating policy dead end.

Fourth, Kresge’s strategies are deeply in line with US rhetoric, its legislative package, and future commitments.

Our environmental program has developed a deeply intentional and highly strategic approach to infuse community equity into the decision-making and resource allocation processes that shape the country’s climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts. Over a decade, the team has built a portfolio of investments unique among national philanthropy in its elevation of the imperative to equip low-wealth communities of color to meaningfully participate in climate-related decisions that affect their lives. .

Fifth, this extraordinary moment underscores the wisdom of integrating climate into all aspects of Kresge’s operations..

We have had many compelling and essential – but complex and nuanced – conversations about how Kresge as a whole – beyond the work of our environment agenda – can best contribute in multiple dimensions to the fight against the environment. climate change crisis. This is a conversation and a path of action that will work collaboratively to evolve over time rather than crystallize in an instant as it forces all of our departments and program teams to think outside of the box. well-defined limits of comfortable practice. Yet ultimately this work will contribute to what we stand for as an organization.

To accelerate our efforts, we ask ourselves these questions internally, and we encourage other funders to do the same:

  1. What steps can we take to embed an ethics of environmental stewardship into the Foundation’s operating code – how does it become a bridge principle in all of our operations? How might this affect the facilities, purchasing processes, portfolio investments and other operational aspects of our philanthropic mechanism? How can the aggregation of these efforts become more than the sum of its parts?
  2. How will our Environment program continue to strengthen and expand its leadership role in climate change practices and policies? What existing practices need to be strengthened? What new approaches should we cultivate?
  3. How do all of our program teams help refine the focus and impact of our environmental program’s distinctive approach to instilling equity, justice and resident agency into our work in communities? How can each of our programs pose the “climate question”, by questioning the strategies and investments they contribute to a reduction in carbon emissions and to a more effective adaptation to the inevitable effects of climate change, all seen under the angle of equity and justice?
  4. In turn, how can the strategies and investments of the Environment team become more anchored in our programs – how can we deepen an already solid practice of jointly developed initiatives like SPARCC and climate change, health and equity? How can the efforts of the Environment team strengthen the objectives and methods of our territorial programs?

It’s hard to think that any of us, or any foundation, or even any presidential administration, can have a significant impact on an existential challenge of such magnitude and complexity. But we have to think that. As our Environment team frequently reminds us, every action that bends the curve, even slightly, is an action in the right direction. We must all pay attention to what the assembled nations agree to do – and then pay even more attention to whether they are doing it.


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