Established in 2008, the family foundation focuses its support on Indigenous causes, education and the environment and is a recent signatory to The Environmental Giving Pledge, committing to give half a million dollars each year to the environment for at least three years – possibly five.
Tackling the climate crisis
PMF Foundation Manager, Nicola Clyne, says joining the “crusade to ramp up environmental giving” reflects the Foundation’s commitment to participating in the many collective efforts underway to tackle the climate crisis.
“Over the last two or three years, we’ve noticed real growth in those collective responses,” Clyne says.
“For us, it’s important that we contribute to the collective process and all those collective strategies because it feels as though we are on the precipice of tipping over into something that’s really positive.
“All the collective thinking and sharing of goals and ideas is helping the climate movement become really impactful in a way that it hasn’t been before. From our perspective, when you find a group of like-minded people and start talking with each other you’ll be amazed at the possibilities that open up.”
Establishing a minimum annual target for the Foundation’s environmental grant making also appealed to Clyne, whose own background as a business analyst saw her work for a range of private companies including a bank and a sustainability start-up before she took up the day-to-day management of the family foundation.
From one-offs to strategic grantmaking
“For me, I feel that having a goal really helps us direct our funding in the most effective way,” she says.
“Before we joined the AEGN, our environmental giving was quite ad hoc with a lot of one-off grants to conservation efforts that were happening at the time, but there was no real strategy around it.
“We’ve found that the goal setting nature of The Environmental Giving Pledge was really important because it’s helped us to continue to evolve in the how we support environmental causes.”
PMF Foundation’s earliest environmental grants were largely directed towards conservation projects, but this has changed in recent years, with the Foundation’s environmental support now almost exclusively focused on climate initiatives that work towards net zero emissions.
“This is definitely the area in which we feel that the collective response is probably going to work,” Clyne says. “From a funding point of view, everybody is sharing their work and ideas and approaches, and it feels like achieving that switch over to a renewables system is right on the edge.
“If we can contribute to projects that are helping to push that over the edge into a new era of living with renewable energy sources, that’s the impact we ultimately hope we contribute towards.”
The economic upheaval wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic has opened the door for a renewables-led recovery.
Multiple approaches to the climate crisis
Clyne accepts that an issue of the magnitude of the climate crisis requires multiple approaches, including support for a transitionary period.
“Transition is the other piece of the renewables puzzle and I feel like many people in communities that are heavily reliant on coal and gas support the transition, but the government’s not moving fast enough.
“We specifically fund a couple of projects around a just transition for those people and communities,” Clyne says. “It’s people taking things into their own hands that will tip renewables over to where they need to be.”
Clyne shares some examples of PMF Foundation’s funding:
“Lock The Gate, specifically their work in the Hunter, plus in the Northern Territory, and Queensland. As I’m sure lots of AEGN members know, these guys are incredible at grass roots organising and mobilising communities to make change themselves. Their efforts achieve some incredible results.”
“Environment Victoria’s work in the LaTrobe valley. If the LaTrobe Valley is able to transition successfully to renewable power with the help of groups like Environment Victoria, this could be a really effective example to showcase to other communities, as they have been so reliant on coal to this point.”
“We’ve funded The Australia Institute for several years in various ways and we are beginning to fund their Climate and Energy program to a greater extent. They have a unique insight and connection to the change makers in Canberra, and internationally, which we haven’t found with any other group. A really amazing group of smart, thoughtful people who are on the ground pushing for policy change every day.”
“ClimateWorks seem to have really effective penetration into industry, big business, and government – their research, reporting, and consulting on how these groups can achieve net zero emissions is trusted and sought after. We’ve found in the past with some research groups, that they do amazing research that then seems to sit on the shelf and not get utilised to full effect, but ClimateWorks seem to have achieved that last piece of the puzzle.”
“The Community Organising Fellowship is a seemingly very effective leadership program for the environment movement. So many of the most prominent environmental campaigners and grass roots organisers have gone through this program. From everything I hear from the alumni they believe the fellowship has been invaluable in building their leadership and organising skills, which they then pass on to others outside the program.”
Nicola on renewable energy: “I don’t want the opportunity to be squandered.”
Seizing today’s opportunity
“Ultimately, achieving a renewables-led future might happen from a thousand different directions,” she continues.
“It will be contributing to renewable infrastructure or contributing to research or contributing to groups that are advocating at a government level. I think it will come from many different sources.”
The economic upheaval wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic has opened the door for a renewables-led recovery, Clyne says, though she concedes she is occasionally frustrated by the lack of action of those in power.
“Like anyone who’s involved in this space, I believe the recession induced by COVID-19 is a great opportunity to put in place a renewables-led plan that will drag us out of that recession – it makes perfect sense and is such an obvious way to go.
“When I keep hearing about gas-led recovery it feels like a wilful disregard of what people seem to want and that’s a little deflating. The economic situation that is in front of us now probably won’t happen again for a number of years and I don’t want the opportunity to be squandered.”