Climate change

A changing climate impacts everything and everyone.

The critical decade for climate philanthropy

A changing climate impacts everything and everyone.  

Everything and everyone we love is threatened by climate change. From mass extinctions to extreme weather events and supply chain breakdowns, to the impacts on human health, inequality and livelihoods. The urgency of the climate crisis has never been clearer: 2023 was the hottest year ever recorded. In 2019/20 Australians experienced the worst bushfires on record that wreaked havoc on communities across the country. 33 people lost their lives, and an estimated 3 billion animals were killed or displaced. Less than a year later, the east coast experienced the worst floods in living memory, where emergency services buckled under the compounding pressures of this new reality. Climate change is not just a future issue. It’s here and now — a lived reality for millions of people across Australia and the world.   

I don’t think there’s a centimetre of Australia that hasn’t been touched by climate change over the last five years.

— Professor Emma Johnston AO FAA FTSE, Deputy Vice-chancellor (Research) at the University of Sydney and Chief Author of the State of the Environment report 

Climate change erodes human rights by amplifying existing inequalities. The World Health Organization declared climate change “the greatest threat to global health in the 21st century.” It causes life threatening disasters, spreads disease, pollutes air quality, and overwhelms public health systems. Australians on low incomes, public housing tenants, people living with disabilities and chronic health issues, single parents and others without equal opportunity will pay a much higher price for climate inaction. Climate disasters also erode women’s economic independence and increase gender-based violence.  

A heating planet also deepens inequality between First Nations and non-Indigenous Australians because they experience extreme weather events, rising sea levels and land dispossession disproportionately.  The future of our children and young people directly depends on whether climate action is taken today. The cumulative and compounding effects of global warming will escalate as future generations grow up.  

However, there is still time to turn this crisis around, and we must.

In the words of Christiana Figueres, chief architect behind the historic Paris Climate Agreement We stand at the crossroads for systemic success or failure on climate change.” We face that crossroad right now as we live through the most critical decade for climate philanthropy. 

As one of the most polluting nations on the planet, and with so much at stake, Australia has a crucial role to play. Multiple credible pathways to net-zero all conclude that Australia must reduce domestic emissions by at least 50 per cent to 75 per cent by 2030. This means that the bulk of the work to reduce our emissions must happen in this decade. We must do everything we can, as quickly as we can. 

Regardless of where you focus your philanthropy, climate will impact it in some way.

— Stacey Thomas, CEO, The Wyatt Trust 

Philanthropy for the climate

Philanthropy is in a unique position to take bold action and it’s an exciting time to do so. The demand for climate action has never been stronger, both at home and abroad. And there is a growing realisation that the climate crisis presents humanity with an opportunity to build a better future: to create cleaner cities, develop sustainable agriculture, restore landscapes and improve people’s lives. Philanthropy has the power to turn this crisis around through its long-term perspective, ability to collaborate with and empower others, and willingness to take risks and invest in innovative solutions — scaling up the most workable at speed.  

Australia’s most influential philanthropists “don’t want to just soften the world’s hard edges; they want to address the existential threat of climate change, strengthen democratic institutions and rethink the way the country is run.

— Australian Financial Review (2023)

The philanthropic community is mobilising in increasingly sophisticated ways to safeguard the climate. AEGN members have already partnered with changemakers to achieve some phenomenal outcomes. Nevertheless, we still face an enormous investment gap that must be closed by 2030 if we are to avert climate catastrophe. Only around 5 per cent of philanthropic giving in Australia is directed to the environment and climate change. We need more resources now, and there are immediate opportunities to have real and lasting impact.

A renewable future will be full of benefits. Energy everywhere will be more affordable. Our cities will be cleaner and quieter. And renewable energy will never run out.

— David Attenborough

Act on climate change now  

If you want to start funding climate action or further develop your thinking in this crucial area, we have many resources to help you:

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