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Working together to tackle the climate crisis

In November 2020, ACEVO formed a member working group on the climate crisis. The purpose of the group is to inform and steer ACEVO’s work in this space, advising on ACEVO staff and trustees’ key decisions concerning the outputs and offers we provide to our members. The working group will contribute ideas and act as a sounding board to proposals made by ACEVO and help to elevate the issue of sustainability across the sector through their individual networks.

A narrated version of this blog is available at the bottom of the page

We asked the working group members to tell us why they wanted to be part of this work, and their thoughts on the role of civil society organisations in working to tackle the climate crisis.

Although the current Covid-19 pandemic has affected us all, climate change remains the biggest threat facing the sector. It should be the highest on our risk registers. Still, it will continue to creep up on us without a concerted sea change, affecting the causes we champion and the beneficiaries we support. From social housing to mental health, and arts and culture to overseas aid, there is no area of civil society this does not touch, which means the sector is in the best possible place to effect positive and meaningful change and engage civil society to take the lead.

Beth Brook, The Heart of England Forest

The climate crisis requires all sectors to step up their pressure on our politicians, especially in the lead up to the UK hosting the next International Climate Conference in 2021. Leaders of voluntary organisations need to play their part and can make a valuable contribution to creating the sense that ‘everyone wants action on the climate’. If that includes evidence of real change in the sector then our voice will be even more credible.

Emma Gibson, London Travel Watch

This working group provides the opportunity to demonstrate how embracing a climate-positive vision will help organisations enhance and future-proof their services, rather than being seen as an additional burden or a technical challenge. For example, protecting those who are vulnerable to weather-related impacts such as extreme heat or flooding should be part of the core mission of care charities while those focused on helping people living in poverty or out of work should do more to promote reductions in food waste or energy costs.

Graham Duxbury, Groundwork

I believe that as charity leaders, we must lead inclusively and responsibly. It is impossible, especially now, to escape the financial pressures and realities that we all face, but still, I believe that how we do things, is every bit as important as what we do.

Gus Alston, Stonegrove Community Trust

I believe that there is no bigger social justice issue to address than climate change and that the sector has yet to face up to this. We are on the back foot, much as we have been with racial justice. My vision for our sector is that it becomes engaged, swiftly, and far more radically, with climate change.  Climate change will make it impossible to achieve our social missions. We all need to decompartmentalise ourselves to become champions of our missions and climate activists. I think that all charities have a crucial role to play in organising, campaigning, mitigating and helping civil society to adapt to the huge changes that we will have to make.

Janet Thorne, Reach Volunteering

Civil society organisations can engage with climate change through their operations and environmental performance, and (where relevant) through their public policy advocacy and grant-making policies. The charity sector also can leverage change through investments and ask questions of suppliers, not least pension providers – which feels like an untapped opportunity. The challenge for some charities is whether action on the climate crisis fits their charitable objectives; this is where strategic risk can provide a useful lens.

John Ball, The Church of England Pensions Board

The climate and biodiversity crises underpin many of the issues we tackle as civil society and make the delivery of our charitable objectives more difficult in many cases. Collectively we should show what we can do, and how these crises are not only the preserve of environment groups, but are actually vital to all of us, whether we’re working on the protection of threatened habitats, international development, or mental health. Healthy nature and climate are basic human rights.

Dr Jonathan Barnard, World Land Trust

As the most pressing issue we are facing in human history, we want to work with the wider sector to bring about positive change for climate now. It can be a frustratingly slow journey alone. We want to work collaboratively to influence the sector, and more pressingly funders, to take the climate crisis seriously and act now. There is very limited funding for work that addresses climate crisis and it is not perceived as a priority. However, the current covid crisis has proved that government and civil society are able to act quickly and meaningfully and we must see a similar response to the climate emergency. We have under a decade to affect change before we are hit with the biggest crisis that humanity has faced. In all honesty, we are feeling desperate!

Katherine Rosen, The Orchard Project

I would like to see the civil society sector taking a lead in this, reaching as it does into every part of society. Water is often forgotten in the wider environmental agenda, including in ACEVO’s own internal environmental commitments. But the great news is that wasting less water can significantly reduce bills, energy and carbon too – as well as leaving more for homes, business, the economy and the natural environment.

Nicci Russel, Waterwise

As Sir David Attenborough put it in his record-breaking debut on Instagram last September: saving our planet is now a communications challenge. At Media Trust, we know the sector is facing critical challenges when it comes to communicating the scale, complexity and urgency of the climate and environment crisis, as well as giving a voice to the most impacted – but often most under-represented –  individuals and communities. With the COP26 UN climate summit taking place in the UK this November and the COVID-19 crisis exposing the need for greater national and global solidarity and solutions, there has arguably never been a more important time to have effective communications to drive policy change and positive action. We believe this working group is a fantastic way to promote initiatives to reframe climate change particularly through a social justice lens and to promote a more diverse range of voices that are active in the climate movement but not getting the cut-through they deserve.  

Su-Mei Thompson, Media Trust
Narrated by a member of the ACEVO staff

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