Guest essay by Eric Worrall
The Climate Institute, a previously well funded climate NGO promoting support for the Paris Agreement and other climate causes, has announced it will close due to lack of money, after a failed call for philanthropic donations to keep their doors open.
Climate Institute to shut due to lack of philanthropic support
Australia’s original climate change-focused think-tank and lobby group will shut after it failed to replace the multi-million-dollar bequest it relied on.
The Climate Institute, known for its research and leading role in public debate since being set up in 2005, will close in June.
It comes 18 months after the institute called for public donations to offset the lapsing of the foundational support set up by Rupert Murdoch’s niece, Eve Kantor, and her husband, farmer Mark Wootton.
“We are disappointed that some in government prefer to treat what should be a risk-management issue as a proxy for political and ideological battles,” he said.
“They are increasingly isolated as the costs of inaction mount and the opportunities and benefits of action become ever clearer.”
The Press Release from the Climate Institute;
Chair of Board announces closure of The Climate Institute
Mar 08, 2017 – 5:14pm
The Board of The Climate Institute (TCI) has announced that the TCI will cease to operate on June 30 2017. The Board announced that the decisions comes as a result of being unable to establish the viable level of funding that would enable The Climate Institute to continue in a meaningful, sustainable form.
TCI has conducted ground-breaking research; built influential strategic partnerships among business, investor, welfare, union and other community groups; achieved domestic and diplomatic public policy outcomes; helped shape change to the regulatory landscape and driven the evolution of financial sector climate risk management, particularly among superannuation and institutional funds, domestically and internationally (see attached list of achievements on following page).
Through its Climate of the Nation series, TCI has also conducted what is now the longest trend survey of the attitudes of Australians to climate change and its solutions.
“With the expiry of its original founding bequest, and despite ongoing support from a range of philanthropic and business entities, the Board has been unable to secure sufficient funding to continue the level and quality of work that is representative of TCI’s strong reputation,” said Board Chair Mark Wootton, who was among the original founding Directors and has been Chair since 2007.
“The Climate Institute has been a provider of pioneering research and a leading advocate for credible, practical climate policy throughout a tumultuous period in Australian public, investor and business decision-making.
“TCI is often described as a trusted broker and critical friend, and we are proud of the way it has built understanding and consensus among a wide variety of stakeholders on such a complex, challenging and important issue. “We are disappointed that some in Government prefer to treat what should be a risk management issue as a proxy for political and ideological battles. They are increasingly isolated as the costs of inaction mount and the opportunities and benefits of action become ever clearer,” he said.
When established in 2005 for an intended five-year life, TCI was the only non-government organisation focussed solely on climate change. TCI has now been joined by many other organisations with a significant focus on climate change. Regulators and investors are beginning to seriously integrate climate risk and opportunity management. The historic Paris agreement provides a framework for international accountability and action. There has also been a stunning recent surge in affordability and scale of clean energy alternatives.
“While challenges still abound, the landscape is much stronger than it was twelve years ago when TCI was first established. The Board is proud of the achievements of The Climate Institute, and its staff, in making an enduring contribution towards its 2050 vision of a resilient Australia prospering in a zero-carbon global economy, participating fully and fairly in international climate change solutions.”
TCI will see a core body of projects to fruition by June 30, and the Board will work with other organisations to ensure key aspects of its work continue through 2017 and beyond. A Transition Sub-Committee has been established to oversee this work.
The Board has also reluctantly accepted the resignation of John Connor who has been Chief Executive Officer of The Climate Institute since February 2007. From April, Mr Connor will be working with Baker McKenzie, heading up the Fijian Government’s COP 23 Secretariat which has been established for the purpose of Fiji’s Presidency of the 23rd Convention of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. John has been a dedicated and highly skilled CEO at TCI and has been pivotal to our achievements.
Olivia Kember, Head of Policy will assume the role of Acting CEO.
The Board will make final determinations on the future of The Climate Institute and its work before June 30.
The Climate Institute appear to have found it impossible to survive on less than a million dollars per year. Receipts in 2014 dropped to $727,000, down from over three million dollars in previous years.
In my opinion they could probably have done more to trim expenses.
For example, The Climate Institute website appears to be a bespoke effort powered by Lateral Systems. I am not disrespecting the quality of their web pages, but the Lateral Systems product seems quite expensive, though no doubt comparable to similar bespoke offerings.
By comparison, WUWT runs on WordPress.com – a content management system which allows people to create a new website for free.
If I have correctly understood the Lateral Systems product page, the Climate Institute likely paid 10s of thousands of dollars every year for their website. This is a substantial and in my opinion unnecessary standing cost, for an organisation which relies on donations to survive.
Perhaps if the Climate Institute hadn’t started existence with a large though limited term annual multi-million dollar grant, they might have learned how to conserve scarce resources.