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U.S. NGOs that Are Moving the Needle on Climate Change

Boyd Cohen | Thursday March 31st, 2011 | 2 Comments

The past few weeks I have been openly critical of Earth Hour (from WWF) and even 350.org because I believe they could do so much more to mobilize the world to really move the lever on climate change.  I personally believe that in order to change our trajectory on this planet, we need to make massive shifts in how we live and work to get to the 350 parts per million target.

My controversial stance critical of the impacts of events put on by such powerful NGOs like the WWF and 350.org is certainly not making me friends in the NGO community.  The World Wildlife Fund has an estimated 5 million global supporters and 350.org is a master at mobilizing millions around the world too.  I have nothing against these organizations.  My point is that with so many members and such leadership talent at the helm (like Bill Mckibben), I would like to see them mobilize their community to move the needle on a global climate accord (or even a U.S. climate policy) and/or moving the business community to meaningfully embrace the opportunities to shift to a low-carbon economy.

I suspect many believe that I do not value the potential role for NGOs in making the transition to the low-carbon economy. In my last column, I spoke about the fact that I couldn’t find NGOs that were moving the needle-what I meant to say was moving the needle with events like Earth Hour.  I did however suggest Climate Week in the UK as a potential model for North American NGOs to emulate.

However, there are so many NGOs doing powerful work to make the low-carbon shift at local, regional, national and international levels I would be remiss if I did not highlight them in this weekly column.  Paul Hawken, co-author of Natural Capitalism, has done in-depth research of the power and collective size of the NGO movement around the globe culminating in his recent book, Blessed Unrest.

Speaking of co-authors of Natural Capitalism, Hunter Lovins, my co-author on our forthcoming book, Climate Capitalism has been at the head of Natural Capitalism Solutions since she founded it in 2003.  Natural Capitalism Solutions is an NGO that believes in the importance of driving change through the business community and has consulted with some of the most important names in industry such as Walmart, Shell and Bank of America.

The Carbon War Room is one of the most important emerging non-profits in North America if not the world.  They are actually a 501(3)c organization founded by Richard Branson and led by Jigar Shah.  The Carbon War Room is fighting “25 battles in 7 theaters” in an attempt to “harness the power of entrepreneurs to implement market-driven solutions to climate change.”  While in Cancun for COP16 I met Murat Armbruster who is heading the War Room’s impressive effort to transform the building stock of dozens of cities.  Now that’s moving the needle.

Green for All, founded by Van Jones in 2007, is doing awesome work on multiple levels from influencing public policy to their greentheblock initiative to help “low-income communities of color become driving forces of the clean-energy economy.”

Climate Solutions, based in the Pacific Northwest, is doing some amazing things with a small staff of only 20 people.  Their About Us section explains my point in this post better than I can: “How does a regional non-profit organization make an impact on the world’s biggest environmental problem?  That’s the challenge Climate Solutions has taken on.  In the face of an issue mired in partisan politics, scientific confusion, and a scope too large to easily grasp, the team at Climate Solutions decided from the beginning to focus on accelerating practical and profitable solutions to global warming.”

There are millions of NGOs around the world that are doing amazing things. Some are small, some are huge, and virtually all are under-funded.  NGO’s that are successful at gaining a large following or membership base can leverage charitable donations, grants and other funding sources in ways that companies cannot.  I would love to see more NGOs like the ones I have listed in this post with the passion, leadership and potential impact they have, to really move the lever on climate change.  As you will notice, some of my favorite NGOs listed here all have in common an appreciation for the need to connect with industry to accelerate the path to the low-carbon economy.  It is time for the environmental movement to proactively support and to leverage their mobilizing potential to move business and government to make the transition to low carbon while creating the foundations for long-term, economic and job growth.

There are many others I couldn’t fit in the less-than-1000-word-blog-post such as the Climate InstituteClimate Trust, Pew Center on Global Climate Change and the World Resources Institute among many others.  In the comment section, please add your favorite NGOs in the U.S. or abroad that are meaningfully moving the needle on climate change and describe how.

 

Boyd Cohen is the CEO of CO2 IMPACT, a carbon origination company based in Vancouver, Canada and Bogota, Colombia. Boyd is also the co-author of the forthcoming book, Climate Capitalism: Capitalism in the Age of Climate Change.

Twitter: boydcohen

This series will use the hashtag #climatcaptlsm

 


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  • Mark Malone

    Amazingly breathtaking really. There is a complete absence of any projection that in fact it is the institutions of capitalism that are the primary cause of climate change.

    The reason the large NGO’s are so weak on this is that the themselves operate at large corporations, for the most part quite isolated from the proponents of the climate justice movement. We need not just practical solution but political solutions. Unfortunately green capitalist are unlikey to support and end to market driven economies that are about wealth accumulation via exploitation.

  • http://www.co2impact.com Boyd Cohen

    Hello Mark. I guess you are not a regular reader of this series on Climate Capitalism. In numerous blog posts I have acknowledged that large organizations, mostly corporations, are most responsible for our current predicament. However I also recognize, as I hope you do too, that they are likely to be the ones to get us out of this mess. Companies are behind economic and job growth, energy choices, the vehicles, washing machines, food choices and just about everything else too. A purely anti-corporate mentality is futile as companies are necessary and are not going away. We need to find ways to get more collaboration from policy makers, NGOs and corporations if we want to make the transition to the low-carbon economy.