Projects to prevent ecological collapse are ‘desperately underfunded’, warn scientists

23 May 2019 News

Eleven of the UK’s leading scientists have today called on charitable foundations and wealthy individuals to allocate more grants to environmental causes, warning that current levels are too low. 

In open letters to the top 100 UK foundations and the top 100 high-net-worth families, scientists have said environmental issues need a significant increase in funding to prevent ecological collapse.

In the letter to foundations they say: “We are told that the latest audit of environmental funding will show just £105m per year in environmental donations from trusts and foundations from 2012 to 2016.

"This is from a total of £4bn+ of grants. Of that £105m, climate change and the ecological crisis were just two of many environmental priorities.” 

This means that just 3 per cent of funding from trusts and foundations is directed towards environmental causes.

The letter to philanthropists adds: “We are told that just 2 per cent of philanthropic funding goes towards climate-related issues.”

'Significant 10-year period'

Angela Terry, founder and CEO of Climate Alliance, states in the open letter: “As scientists across disciplines, we are writing to you to ask that you look at, reflect upon and then act with all possible resources to respond to the extraordinary ecological collapse that is happening now. 

“The work that is being led to counter these threats is desperately under-funded and we are writing to request that you consider an extraordinary increase in your funding to these causes for this critical ten-year period.

“We are writing to implore you to urgently consider significant investment to prevent further ecological catastrophe - whether through your endowments, grant giving or personal wealth.

“There are many ways you could do this … from civil society and social movements, to green investment in research and innovation, to strategic litigation and public education, the communities working in this field are largely starved of the funding they need.”

Signatories to the letter:

  • Professor Myles Allen, head of the climate dynamics group, Oxford University. 
  • Professor Achim Dobermann, director & chief executive of Rothamsted Research.
  • Professor Nick Eyre, professor of energy and climate policy, Oxford University, Jackson senior research fellow in energy at the ECI and Oriel College, and director of the UK Centre for Research on Energy Demand.
  • Professor Piers Forster, professor of physical climate change and director of the Priestley International Centre for Climate, University of Leeds.
  • Professor Joanna Haigh CBE, emeritus professor of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment, Imperial College London.
  • Sir David Anthony King, government chief scientific adviser, 2000-2007; full-time UK Climate Envoy, 2013-2017.
  • Professor Matt Leach, professor of energy and environmental systems, University of Surrey.
  • Professor Mark Maslin FRGS, FRSA, professor of climatology, University College London.
  • Professor Chris Rapley CBE, professor of climate science, University College London, Winner of the Edinburgh Science Medal 2008.
  • Professor Julia K. Steinberger, professor of ecological economics, University of Leeds.
  • Professor Lorraine Whitmarsh, professor of environmental psychology, Cardiff University.
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