NCFP hosts The National Forum on Family Philanthropy every two years. While at this year’s symposium in San Francisco, I took the advice of our wise leader to lean into topics you would normally not choose when selecting breakout sessions. As a result, I wound up sitting in a session about climate change since it is not explicitly one of The Gambrell Foundation’s strategic priorities. The following is a summary of NCFP’s climate session.

The speakers that led the discussion around climate included:

  • Armando Castellano – Trustee of Castellano Family Foundation and Board Chair of Donors of Color Network
  • Jennifer Kitt – President of Climate Leadership Initiative
  • Susan Packard Orr – Co-founder and Chairman of Arreva LLC
  • Walt Reid – Vice President for Environment and Science at the David and Lucile Packard Foundation
  • Jeff Sobrato – Development Manager of the Sobrato Organization

The goal of the Paris Agreement, a legally binding international treaty on climate change signed by 175 countries, including the U.S., is to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. To attain this goal, we must cut carbon emissions in half by 2030, achieving net-zero or maintaining a balance between greenhouse gases produced and taken out of the atmosphere.

First, let’s understand the main sources of emissions. In 2018, greenhouse gas emissions totaled approximately 52 billion tons worldwide. Below is the breakdown of the primary contributors to greenhouse gas emissions:

  • Burning coal/gas in power plants to produce electricity and generate heat produced 25% of global emissions.
  • Deforestation contributes 24% of emissions.
  • Manufacturing of steel, cement, plastics, and oil/gas refining are particularly polluting, causing 21% of emissions.
  • Road transportation relying on fossil fuels and airplanes, ships, and trains generate 14% of emissions.

Moving forward, the path to net-zero entails multiple avenues:

  • Eliminate emissions through the use of clean energy.
  • Protect and enhance nature, which naturally removes 40% of emissions.
  • Remove existing carbon dioxide from the air using technology.
  • Ensure equity and justice, which is necessary for lasting and transformative climate change (e.g., within the U.S., only 13% of funding from 12 of the largest environmental funders went to BIPOC organizations).

The session closed by reminding us that climate transitions are economical, while the impact from future climate overheating is personal. Seems like a fitting place for family foundations to get involved and be effective.