Guest Blog: The transformation of energy sources & philanthropy's long-term focus

This post written by Amanda Martin, Executive Officer, Australian Environmental Grantmakers Network (AEGN)

Did you know that we are in the middle of a quiet revolution? It’s one that has to happen and is transforming our energy systems before our ideas. For example:

  • Germany has a target of reaching producing 20% of its energy from your renewable energy sources by 2020. And guess what? It’s already there!
  • The cost of photovoltaic solar panels has decreased by 75% in 4 years.
  • On a windy day, South Australia gets at least 50% of its energy from wind.
  • The rate of roof top solar installation in private homes has increased by 5,500% in the last 4 years and 20% of Australian households now have PV solar panels or solar hot water systems.

Despite all this, Arctic sea ice has shrunk to record lows this northern summer, the US is enduring one of the worst droughts on record, and in Australia we are seeing climate abatement efforts being challenged nearly every day.

Whether you are a teacher, an investor, a property owner, a hiker, a tourist, a mother or a child, climate change impacts on all aspects of life – including you. Many of us are convinced that human induced climate change is happening and 99% of climate scientists agree with us. We know the implications – rising sea levels, more catastrophic storms and fires, drought, increased stress on our already stressed plants and animals and our national icons like the Great Barrier Reef and more problems for many of our developing nation neighbours. Just to name a few issues. 

But what can we do? What can you do as an individual and what can we do as a funding community? Philanthropy can play a transformational role. Design to Win: Philanthropy’s Role in the Fight Against Global Warming, funded by several major US foundations, describes philanthropy’s role in climate change:

“Politicians are fixated on the next election; CEOs are focused on next quarter’s numbers. Philanthropists, by contrast, have longer time horizons and can tolerate more risk. Besides being more patient investors, philanthropists have a strong tradition of filling in gaps, spurring step-changes in technology and pursuing programming that transcends both national boundaries and economic sectors. Such capacities are exactly what are needed to tackle global warming.”

Environment doesn’t need to be your sole focus to fund in climate change. You can combine your interests in other areas like health, welfare, rural and regional Australia, youth or Indigenous people with climate change funding.

The Australian Environmental Grantmakers Network conference in Melbourne on October 24 is called Funding the Change: Catalysing Transition to a Safe Climate. It will explore the themes of climate and energy, and will focus on how philanthropy can play a key role in catalysing the transformation to a clean energy economy.

The conference will look at various themes including:

  • What technology and policy is here now to help us on the journey to a zero carbon economy and what is already happening in Australia and around the world?
  • How can we build widespread, enduring support for a clean energy future and what is philanthropy’s role in achieving this?
  • What else is happening around the world including in the US and what philanthropic funding and projects are leading the way?
  • A portfolio approach of different actions and strategies is needed to address climate change. What are these approaches and how can we fund them to speed the transition we require?

Speakers will include Heidi Binko from The Rockefeller Family Fund, Professor Mike Sandiford from Melbourne University’s Melbourne Energy Institute and Paul Gilding – author of ‘The Great Disruption’ and advisor to the business community.

Hepburn Wind Farm

The conference will be preceded by a field trip to the Hepburn Wind Farm and the Lakehouse restaurant in Daylesford and followed by a walk around Melbourne’s CBD to look at how the Melboure City Council is working toward a low carbon city.

All funders are welcome. For further details, go to AEGN’s website –

Sep. 27, 2012

 Tags: topical issues, guest post, events, environment

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