Futureproofing Philanthropy against Climate Change – A Dynamic Conversation on Context-Specific Philanthropic Initiatives

Futureproofing Philanthropy against Climate Change – A Dynamic Conversation on Context-Specific Philanthropic Initiatives

The Independent Philanthropy Association of South Africa, in partnership with the The African Climate Foundation and the Lewis Foundation, recently hosted a three-part webinar series, ‘Futureproofing Philanthropy Against Climate Change: How the Climate Crisis Intersects with Your Giving’.

The first webinar unpacked the social, political, economic, and environmental impacts of climate change on all sectors in the development space. In his opening remarks, Executive Director Saliem Fakir emphasised the urgency of integrating a climate lens across all philanthropic initiatives in South Africa. He underlined the importance of being solution-oriented and integrating climate issues in an innovative manner in philanthropy portfolios: “Philanthropies can move flexibly, can experiment and be a laboratory for new ideas.”

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Alliance Magazine | June 2021 | Climate philanthropy before COP26

By Charles Keidan

June 2021

Leading philanthropy publication, Alliance Magazine, takes an look in-depth at the state of climate philanthropy before COP26 in Glasgow – the world’s pivotal climate summit.

The issue has a special focus on the voices and perspectives of young people around the world and their hopes for how philanthropy can make a difference. Highlights include:

  • Winnie Asiti in conversation with prominent young climate leaders, Nisreen Elsaim in Sudan and Kassim Gawusu-Toure in Ghana.
  • An interview Nigel Topping, High Level Climate Action Champion for the Glasgow COP26 in Glasgow, and his views on the ‘incredibly influential’ philanthropy is playing in the lead up to the UN summit.
  • Sonia Medina of The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation tells the story of a quarter century of climate philanthropy.

This edition also profiles the various climate philanthropy commitments springing up across the philanthropy world as well as the philanthropy support organisations forging a path for the climate philanthropy of the next decade.

REad the full intro and download the PDF on Alliance Magazine


The ecosystem of climate philanthropy

Alliance Magazine

1 June 2021

The ACF is thrilled to be profiled in the Alliance Magazine’ June edition, as one a number of platforms, networks and pooled funds have emerged in recent years to enable funders to combine their efforts in the battle against climate change.

Read the full article by Alliance Magazine

Engineering News

ACF Director reflects on the political economy of climate finance

By: Saliem Fakir

9th April 2021

In his book, Feline Philosophy, which is about what cats can teach humans, John Gray points us to a few lessons. One of these is pertinent to what I discuss in this article: beware of anyone who offers to make you happy.

Gray warns that what others promise you as heaven on earth is unlikely to unfold. He adds that one should be warier if the promise is made by populist political figures, who tend to be caught with their hands in the till quite often.

Climate finance has become a sort of promise, not necessarily by people with hands in the till, but by people who seldom deliver on their promises to the most vulnerable. The entire political economy of finance has to change if the challenge of climate change is to be resolved.

The Paris Agreement on climate change led to the formation of a global climate fund that is known as the Green Climate Fund. This fund was meant to hold $100-billion a year for the next couple of decades, with the main purpose being the provision of support for mitigation and adaptation initiatives in developing countries.

The damage caused by extreme weather events is estimated at an average of $300-billion a year, with valuable infrastructure in island nations repeatedly subjected to devastating destruction. But these extreme weather hits are not limited to small island States; they also affect many coastal cities. Neighbouring Mozambique, for instance, is hit by recurring cyclones, causing flooding and the destruction of critical infrastructure that is vital to its economy and the livelihoods of its populace. Mozambique is also key to exports from landlocked countries such as Malawi and Zimbabwe.

One of the principles of the Paris Agreement is shared but differentiated responsibilities. The agreement does make provision for increased flows of finance that go beyond climate finance. But these flows are largely premised on the idea that public funds must catalyse the crowding in of private funds.

Transitions are not little projects amenable to narrow climate finance, and trying to unlock funds from these bureaucratic institutions is another matter. Transitions ought to be systemic processes of change that require central banks and treasuries to create fiscal space by allocating resources towards transitions.

In turn, macroeconomic policy should be used to nudge and cajole private firms to start allocating resources towards transition support.

If you read the works of Vaclav Smil, one of the best thinkers on energy issues and systems, you will realise that technoeconomic shifts take a long time to happen, yet we are seeking to solve decades of climate mismanagement in a very narrow time period.

This is a tall order for governments moored to fiscal austerity and where private finance will only take risks when there is, well, no risk, but high rewards. Of course, private finance will only step in for scale where government is able to absorb the risks.

It is also clear, when it comes to austerity principles, that there are some rules for some people and other rules for other people – it all depends on whether you are a creditor or debtor nation.

The European Central Bank (ECB), in its latest push to ‘green’ Europe, is playing a significant role in decarbonising its balance sheet. The ECB’s position is clear: over time, it should exclude from its portfolio the buying of bonds that are inconsistent with the European Union’s target to be carbon-neural by 2050.

Indeed, there is no consensus among central bankers and economists on the role that central banks should play. Some experts are calling for central banks to hold positions of neutrality, among other things, while others are suggesting that the climate crisis is enough of an emergency for central banks to do away with their neutrality.

The ECB, they suggest, should actively ban itself from buying bonds from companies that have heavy externalities.

At the heart of the debate is whether we should treat the climate crisis as simply an event that can best be solved through the prevailing central bank model of price stability and strengthening financial institutions, or whether central banks should be playing a more developmental role.

It is not that no precedent exists; one just has to look at the post-World War II role that the Bank of Japan played in the reconstruction of that country. Central banks can indeed be more directive of where money should flow and how it should be allocated.

Central banks can carry more than one mandate, if they want, and monetary policy should increasingly include not only climate risks as a factor for financial stability but also transition targets.

The amounts needed for transitions run into trillions of dollars and, among other things, should be used to buy out fossil fuels, scale new cleaner technology, fund research and development associated with new technologies, climate-proof critical infrastructure, fund projects aimed at ensuring recovery following disasters and replenish insurance funds. Poorer countries simply do not have the depth of government and private funds to deal with these challenges.

Since rich countries are largely responsible for the bulk of greenhouse-gas emissions, an externality which they transferred on to others at no cost to themselves, they ought to compensate for the side effects of such externalities. The global financial system needs to be more aligned with a transitional, developmental agenda than facilitating cheap money. On this issue, the 2019 United Nations Conference on Trade and Development report on the need for a Global Green Deal provides for some interesting reading. The thrust of this report is that there is a need for more government intervention, which is what most green deal policy frameworks are pushing for.

Read this article on Engineering News

business day

G7 summit: SA can help strengthen climate diplomacy

SA could be part of a global collective strategy to retire coal within developing economies

SA, together with India, South Korea and Australia, will be a guest at the G7 Leaders’ Summit this week. It serves as an occasion for SA to establish a more assertive climate diplomacy at the centre of its international relations strategy. Climate diplomacy is a tool for transforming SA’s energy economy, advancing its economic interests and energy security, while also championing the continent’s developmental priorities.

The G7 summit in Cornwall takes place amid an unprecedented global pandemic, compounded by the climate emergency and rising geopolitical rivalries. Unsurprisingly, the UK has made the global response to Covid-19 and climate change the main priorities of its G7 presidency. Both issues are highly political.

Read the full article on BusinessDay


Unpacking the just transition (in three parts)

(Part One): The conceptual terrain

The concept of a ‘just transition’ in which worker jobs in a dying industry like coal mining are transformed into new skills in clean energy, is, in essence, not new. Every industrial revolution has brought about radical change, and the Fourth Industrial Revolution is no different.

“Look for a form for the whole of knowledge. Goal. Conditions required of this form – Its essential relation to language.” (Paul Valéry: Cahiers, Volume 5).

Around 2015, I participated in a government-led initiative, Mining Phakisa. This was perhaps the first time I encountered and had to grapple with the concept of a “just transition” in such a rapt way, given how the concept is now taking centre stage as a ritual discourse among environmentalists, renewable energy and climate proponents.

The year 2015 was also important in another respect — it was the year the Paris Agreement was concluded and specific mention was made of the concept of the just transition in this agreement.

Read the full article on Daily Maverick

(Part Two): Between recovery and reconstruction

We are entering an era of decarbonisation where those stuck in the old fossil economy will find themselves in civilisational backwaters from which they may not return. The flurry of new technologies in what has been called the rise of ‘electrostates’ cannot be dismissed – they will have geopolitical significance for all of us.

“What Jacob Burckhardt said of ‘great men’ most Americans might well say of their elite: ‘They are all that we are not.’” (C Wright Mills, The Power Elite)

“People who know only economics do not know much about economics.” (John Kay and Mervyn King, Radical Uncertainty)

Among environmental groups, there is an eagerness to insert green recovery plans (like the Build Back Better campaign, which rings hollow in countries with high inequality) into the phase of economic collapse post Covid-19, which in the case of Africa already looks like a long, bleak and unpromising recession.

Transitions can effect change – they change the substance, but they often keep the form. They may well preserve and deepen the crisis of structural inequality and give the elites something new to spend on. Or they may well deepen the social crisis so much that the form cannot survive in its old structure. In many countries, climate transitions, post-Covid-19, are at the fork in the road – between tinkering on the edges or shifting the entire base of the form.

Read the full article on Daily Maverick

(Part Three): Saving Leviathan and reconstructing South Africa — the state as solution to our woes

The success or failure of a just transition relies on a capable state to shape the ethos and redistributive mechanism of the economy by taming the excesses of the market. But the South African Leviathan is weakly shackled and, as the last decade has shown, it has the capacity to go rogue.

“Another reason for controlling political and economic inequalities is to prevent a part of society from dominating the rest. When two inequalities are large they tend to go hand-in-hand. This allows a few, in virtue of their control over the political process, to enact a system of law and property ensuring their dominant position not only in politics but throughout the economy.” (John Rawls, Lectures on the History of Political Philosophy)

Structural inequality has long been prevalent – you do not only have to wade through Thomas Piketty’s doorstoppers as there are enough mainstream reports on the nature of global inequality: the underlying shift has been the uneven distribution of income share between capital and labour over the past 40 years – with the former decidedly the biggest beneficiary of the largesse of gains from economic growth.

Green transitions cannot engineer a just transition without addressing the cause of the prevailing structural inequality and injustices. The problem of the green transition is that it is bandied as a benevolent event, slowly being born or coming on the horizon that is suddenly going to change the lot of humanity.

Read the full article on Daily Maverick


The political economy of South Africa’s energy transition for outsiders

In South Africa, the political drift is towards favouring ‘low-carbon options’ and engineering a distracting skirmish between coal and renewables technologies to keep the renewables camp busy. And quietly, gas, nuclear and coal is being pushed.

“A man who is used to acting in one way never changes, he must come to ruin when the times, in changing no longer is in harmony with his ways.’’ (Machiavelli, The Prince)

As the head of a new foundation, called the African Climate Foundation, I get recurrent questions asked by experts, development finance institutions and others from outside South Africa, as to what is going on with South Africa’s energy transition and the once very laudable Renewables Independent Power Producers Programme (REIPPP).

The very short answer is, whether they believe it or not, that it is not the only transition on the go and the low-carbon transition includes for now: clean coal, gas and nuclear. Well, they may all have their green-house gas merits, but it is to be seen if they will be cheap, quick and lead to deep decarbonisation of South Africa’s electricity sector.

Renewables is a nascent industry – with great promise – not only as low-cost energy solutions, but in the longer run would undoubtedly have laid the foundation for new industrial and manufacturing capability.

As with every energy carrier, coal, gas, nuclear and renewables, local content provisions and industrial capability grow with time – they take decades, but require a structured and sustained policy enabling an environment of consistent installed capacity for this to be realised.

The policy hostility towards renewables, which goes against the government’s own Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), seems to be garnished with a combination of outlandish conspiracy theories that the greenies are trying to capture the energy policy of government and all sorts of “alternative facts” about renewables are being shouted out from the bully pulpit.

Read the full article on Daily Maverick

Covid-19 pandemic and climate change are expected to top the agenda at the G7 summit

The Executive Director of the African Climate Foundation, Saliem Fakir, was joined by the CEO of the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA), Elizabeth Sidiropoulos in an interview with Newzroom Afrika. Together, they discussed the significance of the G7 Summit and its outcome as the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change topped the agenda.