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It is time for nature

Today is World Environment Day. A day in which we advocate for, celebrate and encourage environmental action. But as we enter the 2020s, we must ask ourselves collectively: Are we doing enough to protect the world that we depend on? 

According to our latest research into environmental giving trends, the environment receives only 2.5 per cent of all charitable donations and bequests, and 0.5 per cent of all revenue received by the wider charitable sector. This funding is then shared by the more than 900 environmental charities around Australia. Considering the scale and complexity of the environmental crisis we find ourselves in, there is urgent need for growth. 

The Black Summer bushfires that swept the country this past summer provided a devastating reminder to us that, as Greta Thunberg tells us, our house is on fire. More than 100 threatened animal and plant species have been hit hard by these bushfires, with many pushed closer to extinction, underscoring the inexorable link between climate change and biodiversity decline. Yet climate is only half the story when it comes to our environmental crisis. The other catastrophe is the destruction of our natural world, prompting the United Nations to focus this year’s World Environment Day on biodiversity – a concern it acknowledges as both urgent and existential. 

None of this is news for environmental philanthropists, who are painfully aware of these twin crises and what they mean for our planet, but what about awareness within the broader philanthropic community? Conversations around the environment have become mainstream over the past two years, with climate activism ramping up globally and buoyed by the school strikers and rise of Extinction Rebellion. Some 1,490 jurisdictions in 30 countries have declared a climate emergency, while in Australia, this summer’s catastrophic bushfires have amplified climate and ecological concerns on the political and media agenda. With awareness of environmental issues at an all-time high, does this mean the philanthropic community will give more to the cause?

The signs are promising. While individuals – as opposed to trusts and foundations – currently provide most environmental donations, a 2016 Giving Australia research study suggests that philanthropy at the larger end of the scale is shifting its focus to environmental concerns, with more than 20 per cent of the study’s respondents who practice structured philanthropy regarding the environment as an important funding priority. It’s a sentiment that holds true for high-net-worth givers too, according to the 2018 Support Report, which found that among Australia’s top 50 donors in 2017, the environment was the fourth-most supported cause behind education, culture and arts, and health and medical research. 

Nevertheless, for now, the philanthropic funding the environment receives does not match the scale of the issues we face. World Environment Day organisers put it simply: the food we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink and the climate that makes our planet habitable all come from nature. To care for ourselves we must care for the environment. 

Our Environmental Giving Pledge is tackling this challenge head on, seeking to raise an additional $50 million in five years for the environment. To date, our members have contributed or pledged more than $35.5 million as part of this campaign. It’s a heartening response from philanthropists who want to create a thriving future, to be bigger and bolder in their funding, who know the time to act for nature is now. This World Environment Day, we urge you to join the campaign or increase your environmental giving pledge