Moving Further, Faster Together on Climate

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to participate in the Global Climate Action Summit. At the Summit, national and subnational governments, indigenous communities and civil society organizations gathered to share solutions and make commitments to slow climate change. Voices from around the world declared unequivocally that climate change is the defining issue of our day and an urgent global problem with the unique potential to undermine everything we care about in our communities and in our world. It is also a challenge that holds vast potential for all of us to make a difference, while there is still time.

However, the October 7 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report concluding we may have less than two decades to make massive and unprecedented changes to our global energy infrastructure is a stark reminder that this work is more urgent than ever. “There is no documented historic precedent” for the action needed at this moment, the report found. Because of work by governments, businesses, nonprofit organizations, philanthropy and many others, projected temperature rise has shifted from 5 or 6 degrees Celsius to 3 degrees by the year 2100. That’s real progress and proof we can win if we move further and faster together to put our planet on a more sustainable path. But we cannot afford to be complacent about the challenges ahead.

Among the hundreds of innovative climate solutions that were elevated during the Summit, I am particularly reenergized for the Packard Foundation’s support of our grantee partners’ work on forests and oceans.

Halting and reversing deforestation is critical to climate stability—research shows that forests and land use alone could deliver 30 percent of the climate solutions needed by 2030. Furthermore, as Walt Reid, our director of Conservation and Science, wrote in a recent article, reforestation offers the most cost-effective way to remove carbon from the atmosphere right now.

At the Summit I was honored to participate in an event hosted by the Climate and Land Use Alliance, a collaboration of foundations committed to promote solutions to conserve forests and more sustainable land use for the benefit of people and the planet. At the event nine foundations pledged $459 million to support forests, lands and indigenous land rights to mitigate climate change, and 18 foundations signed on to a joint statement, calling for further investment.

The Summit also offered a chance to elevate the role of the ocean as a climate solution. Like forests, the ocean plays a central role in absorbing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating some of the worst climate impacts. The Packard Foundation has been supporting ocean research, conservation and advocacy for more than 50 years, and we were thrilled to see a group of leaders band together to launch the Ocean Global Action Agenda, challenging all sectors of society to put the ocean up front in climate action.

Philanthropy’s focus on climate change is growing. The commitments made at the Global Climate Action Summit provide an important down payment on a cleaner, greener future for all, and an open invitation for others to join.

I do not expect every foundation, corporation, and nonprofit to make climate change its top priority; there are many urgent issues that demand attention. But if you care about children, if you care about health, or you care about economic development, you have to care about climate change. There is a role for every organization to play, and an urgent need for every organization to seize the opportunities in front of it.

The weekend before the Summit, I was bolstered by the tens of thousands of people from around the world who marched demanding faster action to protect the climate. They are right, and we should listen.

There is still time to prevent the worst effects of climate change, provided we move with unprecedented purpose and urgency, embrace proven solutions to restore the health of the planet, and develop new innovations to slow climate change and protect our shared future.