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Banks that Address Climate Change to Get $20 Million in Grant Support

By Brian Collett

One of the world’s biggest charitable foundations is setting aside millions of dollars to kick-start bank investment to halt climate change.

A philanthropic portfolio of up to $20m (£14m, €16m) a year for five years has been established for climate change work in the finance field by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, often known simply as the Hewlett Foundation, an organization formed in 1966 by the co-founder of the Hewlett-Packard IT group, his wife and their eldest son to promote a better world.

From this, $1m is now being offered in grants this year for conducting projects to persuade business and consumer savers in the retail banking sector and the banks themselves to respect environmental principles when investing. The Foundation is accepting Requests for Proposals through May 1. More grants from the foundation are likely to follow.

For example, the banks could be encouraged to divest from fossil fuel industries and invest instead in climate change mitigation solutions, such as solar and wind energy.

Individual account holders could think similarly when placing their money and could favor banks that invest sustainably.

The funds available globally in checking and savings accounts are monumentally large. Particularly rich pickings are found in the US, where $12tn is held in these accounts, and in India, where the figure is $1tn.

The foundation itself has a kitty of $9bn and its overall climate change effort amounts to a spending of up to £600m over five years. It hopes the retail banking sector will help to provide the $1tn needed globally and annually to meet the Paris Climate Accord by 2050.

Marilyn Waite, a program officer with the foundation’s environment program, illustrates the ethical relevance of the target vividly.

She warns: “It’s hard to think about solving the pressing challenges of today without thinking about climate change, something that affects everyone on Earth and permeates our economy.

“Some of our most important economic hubs are also coastal cities, so whether it’s New York in the US or Shanghai in China, these locations are at risk of sea level rise because of climate change.

“Impacts, such as extreme drought, coastal flooding and more intense and more frequent extreme weather events such as hurricanes, are being linked to changes in our macro-climate. These are all putting our real physical assets, and therefore our livelihoods, and everything else that surrounds them, at risk.

“Worse, climate change is risking millions of human lives, particularly in these coastal cities.”

Photo: William and Flora Hewlett Foundation/Sawitree Pamee / EyeEm via Getty Images