Science/Nature

Letter makes plea to rich over climate


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Britain’s wealthy elite are being asked to dip deep into their pockets to protect the environment and the climate.

A group of scientists has written to the top 100 wealthiest charitable bodies and families to request funding.

They say efforts to tackle what they call the ecological crisis are “desperately under-funded”.

The authors believe that less than 3% of philanthropic funding goes towards climate-related issues.

The letter has a slightly desperate tone. It says: “We are taking the step to write to you as the most affluent individuals and families.

“The rates of deforestation, of carbon emissions, of species extinction, of land degradation are a threat to us all.

“We implore you to urgently consider significant investment to prevent further ecological catastrophe – whether through your personal investments or your philanthropy.“

The scientists think this is the first letter of its kind.

It warns: “The changes to our natural world are critical to the lives of the communities you support.”

Who has written the letter?

The 11 signatories are distinguished academics including the physicist Myles Allen from Oxford; the chemist Joanna Haigh from Imperial College; the psychologist Lorraine Whitmarsh from Cardiff University and Sir David King, former government chief scientist.

The letter was co-ordinated by Angela Terry, from the not-for-profit Climate Alliance. She told us: “We need the investment to rapidly adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change that are already being felt.

“Let’s invest in EV charging infrastructure alongside educational programmes so people know it is perfectly okay to take an EV into a car wash.

“Let’s combine flood defences with action plans to protect the most vulnerable members of our community from extreme weather.

“The challenge is vast – and philanthropists and charitable foundations can play a transformational role in safeguarding the well-being of humanity.”

One major donor, the Wellcome Trust, said it was hard to disentangle precise figures on spending on climate and environment from other funding streams.

But a spokesperson said it wanted to expand its work on links between human health and the climate.

What’s the reaction to the letter?

Sophie Marple, who founded an educational charity, the Gower St Foundation, said: “We never previously focused on climate change – but I’ve been shocked, given the enormity of the threat, how under-resourced the space is.”

Dr Joe Smith, director of the Royal Geographical Society, told us: “There has long been under-investment in environmental issues, and especially climate change, by philanthropists. This reflects, in part, that the remit of many charities, trusts and foundations was set decades ago.”

The top three places in the Sunday Times rich list are taken by billionaires: the Hinduja family; the Reuben brothers and the shale gas magnate Sir Jim Ratcliffe. None has yet responded to our request for comment.

Some of the people approached will doubtless feel that solving the climate is a job for governments, not for the rich.

Follow Roger on Twitter.





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