Heeding the call of grassroots campaigners, several wealthy philanthropists announced Friday a new fund that will raise money for climate action groups around the world.
Investor Trevor Neilson, filmmaker Rory Kennedy, and Aileen Getty of the Getty Oil family have so far raised more than $625,000 for their Climate Emergency Fund (CEF). The philanthropists plan to raise at least 100 times that amount over the next several months by appealing to other rich and powerful contacts around the globe, calling on them to use their immense wealth to help demand that governments take immediate, decisive climate action.
"In the past, philanthropy has often been about personal interest, but now people are realizing that we are all in this together and putting their money forward for our collective well-being."
—Extinction RebellionEchoing the message that groups like Extinction Rebellion and the School Strike for Climate movement have been spreading for months, Neilson said he recently realized that most people who hold enough wealth to potentially sway lawmakers haven't grasped that incremental progress to fight the climate crisis is not sufficient.
"The world's biggest philanthropists are still in a gradualist mindset," Neilson told The Guardian. "We do not have time for gradualism."
Extinction Rebellion, which will receive a large portion of the money raised by the fund so far and which inspired Neilson to use his wealth for the cause, welcomed the development of CEF.
"It's a signal that we are coming to a tipping point," said a spokesperson. "In the past, philanthropy has often been about personal interest, but now people are realizing that we are all in this together and putting their money forward for our collective well-being."
The money raised by CEF will also go to the School Strike for Climate. Other grassroots campaigners will be able to apply for three levels of funding: for start-ups, groups that want to create a permanent structure for their activism work, and established campaigns that are ready to organize large-scale events and pay salaries to organizers.
"Our climate crisis demands a new paradigm, requiring the phasing out of fossil fuel infrastructure, the phasing in of non-fossil energy sources, and large-scale removal of carbon from the atmosphere," reads the fund's website. "Despite what we know is needed, we are currently moving in the wrong direction as global emissions continue to increase annually. CEF recognizes that this moment requires large-scale disruption and nonviolent civil disobedience to force the policy change we need."
350.org co-founder Bill McKibben, Uninhabitable Earth author David Wallace-Wells, and Climate Mobilization founder Margaret Klein Salamon are among the advisers on the fund's board. The advisers have all spent years calling for bold action to drastically and immediately curb carbon emissions by ending fossil fuel extraction projects and shifting to a renewable energy economy.
Salamon wrote on social media that the fund and the involvement of wealthy philanthropists could be a "game changer for the Climate Emergency Movement."
— Margaret Klein Salamon (@ClimatePsych) July 12, 2019
Extinction Rebellion's occupation of several landmarks in the U.K. this spring helped convince government leaders in Scotland, England, Ireland, and Wales to declare a climate emergency. Sixteen national governments across the globehave now done the same.
After agreeing to end its occupation of the landmarks, Extinction Rebellion said it was planning to focus on sustaining an international movement—work that CEF may support.
"CEF recognizes that this is a critical moment to support activist movements to demand change," wrote the fund on its website. "We believe that only a peaceful planet-wide mobilization on the scale of World War II will give us a chance to avoid the worst-case scenarios and restore a safe climate."
"The disruption of everyday life and perceived normal reality is necessary to create a conversation on the climate and ecological crisis," CEF added. "It is not convenient, but it is necessary."