Funding story: Global warming

Projects that address climate change remain at the bottom of funders' lists, despite the importance of the issue.

It's too darn hot. And it's getting hotter. Climate change is at the top of the political and environmental agendas. UK political parties are competing to out-green each other. Even in the US, long-time sceptic President Bush has been obliged to take notice of endangered polar bears and melting glaciers.

Yet the world continues to warm up, and organisations that want to tackle climate change continue to find it difficult to get grant funding. According to the Where the Green Grants Went series of reports, compiled and written by Matilda Lee and Jon Cracknell for the Environmental Funders Network, climate change is at the bottom of the funding priority list: it accounts for less than 10 per cent of the money that goes to environmental work in general.

"There has been some government funding on the research side, such as support for the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research," says Danyal Sattar, director of the environment programme at the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, which funds some climate change work. "For the voluntary sector, there is the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' Environmental Action Fund and the Energy Savings Trust.

"However, there are clearly funding gaps. We've been particularly interested in backing projects that use markets to encourage a lower-carbon economy, and we are looking at the role green taxes can play."

Ironically, the very fact that climate change is an urgent, global problem seems to put funders off. "There's a mismatch between the way the issue is communicated - in biblical, catastrophic terms - and the steps members of the public can take to tackle it," Cracknell says. "People struggle because they can't make sense of these two frames of reference."

Sarah Hanson, a campaigner for Friends of the Earth, says: "Despite the changes in the political landscape, trusts and foundations are still far more comfortable funding tangible projects such as buying land to protect a specific habitat or putting funding into species conservation.

"They don't believe their funding can make a difference; it feels too big an issue. The ones that are funding climate change are doing discrete, tangible projects, even though campaigning is where we can make the biggest difference."

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