I recently spotted an article posted on the BBC website on 24th May 2021, and headed “Climate change: Carwyn Jones defends his record as he leaves Senedd”. Reading on, I discovered that this was an issue, because he has just been appointed as chair of Size of Wales (perhaps that should be “Sighs of Whales” or “Sighs and Wails”?), a “climate charity”.  

Apparently his record as Welsh First Minister is an issue for some people, because although during his time in power the Senedd passed the Environment Act and the Well-being of Future Generations Acts, Wales consistently failed to meet tree-planting targets, and in some years Welsh CO2 emissions went up, rather than down. His explanation is that the Welsh government had to respond to the challenge of the 2008 financial crash. Disgracefully:

“[p]eople were more interested in the need to prop up our economies, making sure people have money in their pockets and are secure.”

But now things are different, it seems:

“The two things are not contradictory, and I’m glad to see now that climate change is going back up the agenda across the world.”

I disagree, on both points.

I had a quick look at Size of Wales’ website, and very swish it is too. It’s a bit ironic that tree-planting targets were missed while their new Chair was Welsh First Minister, given that “Size of Wales provides funding and expertise to local and indigenous communities in tropical regions to support them to secure and sustain their precious forests, grow more trees and establish sustainable livelihoods.”

They also employ quite a lot of staff – a Director; a Forest Projects and Community Outreach Manager; a Policy and Education Manager; a Head of Programmes; an Education and Youth Engagement Manager; a Communications and Marketing Manager; a Finance and Grants Manager; an Advocacy and Outreach Manager; and five Education Outreach Managers.

That’s a lot of wages. So I wondered where they get their funding.   There is quite a list of funders, including (to name a few only) the Waterloo Foundation; Scottish Power Foundation; Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation; Natural Resources Wales; Public Health Wales; Sustain Wales; and the Welsh Government directly. Given the identity of their new Chair, funding from the Welsh Government seems, well…maybe just a little incestuous?

And that funding from the Welsh Government reaches Size of Wales in several different ways, given that, according to its own website:

Natural Resources Wales is the largest Welsh Government Sponsored Body – employing 1,900 staff across Wales with a budget of £180 million. We were formed in April 2013, largely taking over the functions of the Countryside Council for Wales, Forestry Commission Wales and the Environment Agency in Wales, as well as certain Welsh Government functions.”

That is to say it is in effect a directly-funded arm of the Welsh Government which is diverting some of its own funding to a charity which supports forests that are not in Wales. The same is true of Public Health Wales, whose website says:

We work to protect and improve health and well-being and reduce health inequalities for the people of Wales.”

What has that got to do with foreign forests, and why is it a valid use of their public funding to divert some of it to the Size of Wales charity?

All this set me to wondering about the whole idea of climate charities. A separate, but related, thought is what it means to be charitable, and how can a charity be regarded as such when it is heavily reliant on Government funding.

What is charity?

In 1601 the English Parliament passed the Charitable Uses Act, also widely known as the Statute of Elizabeth. It provided an early official definition of charity, even if the definition was contained in the preamble to the statute, and so wasn’t technically the legal definition. As the official commentary on the clauses of the then Charities Bill 2005 put it:

It was, in effect, a list of purposes or activities that the State believed were of general benefit to society, and to which the State wanted to encourage private contributions.”

Note that the state wanted to encourage private contributions.   Now the state seems to be one of the main funders of many charities.  

Broadly speaking, the Preamble to the Statute of Elizabeth read as follows:

“Relief of the aged, impotent, and poor people; maintenance of sick and maimed soldiers and mariners, schools of learning, free schools, and scholars in universities, repair of bridges, ports, havens, causeways, churches, seabanks, and highways, education and preferment of orphans, for or towards relief of stock, or maintenance for houses of correction, marriages of poor maids, supportation, aid, and help of young tradesmen, handicraftsmen, and persons decayed, relief or redemption of prisoners or captives, aide or ease of any poor inhabitants concerning payments of fifteens, setting out soldiers and other taxes.”

Nevertheless, during the centuries that followed, the Courts tended to bear it in mind when considering whether an activity qualified for charitable status.

The Times They Are a’Changing

Despite being repealed in 1888, the Statute of Elizabeth cast a long shadow, and thanks to the case law that had developed prior to its repeal, the basic ideas it contained remained relevant even after its repeal. But all that has now changed. In the UK the definition of charitable purposes is now contained in the Charities Act 2011, and falls into two parts. Firstly, it has to be for the public benefit, and secondly, it has to be for a purpose set out in section 3(1) of the Act. Section 3 (1) contains a long list, so long that most things could be brought within its terms if a little imagination is used:

  • The prevention or relief of poverty;
  • The advancement of education;
  • The advancement of religion;
  • The advancement of health or the saving of lives;
  • The advancement of citizenship or community development;
  • The advancement of the arts, culture, heritage or science;
  • The advancement of amateur sport;
  • The advancement of human rights, conflict resolution or reconciliation or the promotion of religious or racial harmony or equality and diversity;
  • The advancement of environmental protection or improvement;
  • The relief of those in need because of youth, age, ill-health, disability, financial hardship or other disadvantage;
  • The advancement of animal welfare;
  • The promotion of the efficiency of the armed forces of the Crown or of the efficiency of the police, fire and rescue services or ambulance services.

And there’s a catch-all in case the above isn’t sufficiently comprehensive (recreational and similar trusts or recognised under the old law).  

This isn’t the place to query the merits of any particular purpose stated in the list (though I may not be alone in raising an eyebrow at “the promotion of the efficiency of the armed forces”). Suffice it to say that the above list has given the world of climate change alarm a further opportunity to benefit from taxpayer largesse, in the form of the tax breaks that go along with charitable status, and in some cases in direct funding from the UK Government, devolved governments within the UK, or various arms of the state.

Other Climate Change Charities

There are websites you can visit to identify climate change charities. In fairness, the one I visited offers up a whole list of charities which are, at most, peripherally interested in climate change, and whose primary purpose is often to protect the local environment in the places where they are based. Others, though, are unashamedly about climate change and nothing else. One of the foremost will be very familiar to the our readers:

Climate Outreach

This is what they say about themselves:

“We exist because climate change doesn’t communicate itself, even with the increasing number of climate impacts. We help people understand this complex issue in ways that resonate with their sense of identity, values and worldview. Informed consent and support from people across society and around the world creates what we call a social mandate for climate action – and we believe it’s how real change happens.”

I would question the “informed consent” bit, given that in the UK all the main political parties are signed up to “net zero”, the public hasn’t been given a meaningful electoral choice, and nobody (least of all Climate Outreach) is telling the public what “net zero” will cost and the impact it will have on their lives.

The bit that intrigued me, though, is the section of the website that proudly thanks their funders:

KR Foundation; Samworth Foundation; Joseph Rowntree Foundation Trust; New Economics Foundation; European Climate Foundation; The World Bank; Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation; Climate-KIC; Marmot; Climate and Land Use Alliance; Polden-Puckham Charitable Foundation; The National Lottery; King Baudoin Foundation; European Commission; Economic and Social Research Council; Natural England.

So this charity is supported by other charities, the European Commission, the UK government and numerous wealthy institutions. It’s a far cry from a flag day in the High Street on a Saturday morning. Their “core team” runs to 25 individuals, they have six trustees; a seven member Research Advisory Board; and seven associates, including a Diversity and Inclusion Specialist for Climate Visuals Countdown, a graphic designer, a climate visuals associate, and a strategic consultant on UK climate engagement.

I now turn the spotlight upon another charity that also probably needs little introduction:

Climate Group

Their website tells us that they’re an international organisation with offices in London, New York and Delhi. Since 2003 their network has grown to include over 300 multinational businesses in 140 markets worldwide. It is the Secretariat for the Under2 Coalition, which we are informed is made up over 220 governments, representing more than 1.3 billion people and 43% of the global economy.

Sounds like big business to me, yet it’s a UK registered charity, being supported, via tax breaks, by the UK taxpayer. (By the way, they’re also supported, so their website tells us, by the Energy & Climate Change Directorate of the Scottish Government).

In fairness to their ten trustees, they are unpaid (though one gets the impression that none of them need the money).

One of their trustees is Amber Rudd, former Cabinet Minister. Chair of Trustees is Joan MacNaughton, who their website describes as “an influential figure in international energy and climate policy.” Other trustees are an international and corporate finance lawyer; a senior chartered accountant who has worked with wind and solar farm developers; a climate change and international development specialist; and a former President of South Australia.  

Many would regard these as the great and the good, and I am happy to credit them with the best of intentions. However, I am not happy personally at the use being made of charity law by unashamedly campaigning and highly profitable organisations.

Some Concluding Thoughts

Fings ain’t what they used to be, and the world of charities has changed out of all recognition. The fabulously-funded climate change blob has wasted no time in taking advantage of the very broad definition of charity contained in the UK Charities Act (and no doubt in similar statutes around the world). I’m not suggesting that anyone here is doing anything wrong – all this is perfectly in line with the law. I just wonder whether UK charities law needs something of a re-think. Multi-million charities, with lavish funding, including from world governments and international bodies (such as the European Commission) and from massive charitable foundations don’t shake tins in front of people anymore, because they don’t need to. They’re big businesses. And that being the case, is it really right that they enjoy additional tax breaks (and often state funding) by virtue of charitable status?

Postscript

In my view, these big businesses might more appropriately register as community benefit societies, i.e. businesses that are run for the benefit of the wider community, re-investing profits in the community, under the Financial Conduct Authority. The Climate Psychology Alliance, for instance, has gone down this route, and I give them full marks for doing so, even though I find it extremely worrying that climate change propaganda has brought us to such a state that there is a place for an organisation for people “who want to engage in addressing the psychological aspects of the climate and ecological emergency.” What have the climate alarmists done?

14 Comments

  1. A systematic look at the Green Gravy Train would be absolutely the most useful thing we could be doing. It’s mundane work, but most enlightening. Ben Pile used to do it most thoroughly at Climate Resistance. I’ve slogged through the accounts and websites one or two green entities in the past. Barry Woods is a mine of information on many of the most visible British blogs, and whatever he doesn’t know Vinny Burgoo will fill in in a comment.

    I’ve often suggested some kind of co-operative effort, but without success. It really needs someone with the skills to set up a monster data base, and that’s not me.

    Among the useful resources there’s a thing called Open Corporates which publishes all that can be known about companies. Their article on Climate Outreach is here:
    https://opencorporates.com/companies/gb/06459313

    Climate Outreach, like many such organisations, operates as both a company and a charity. The equivalent information source for Charities is Open Charities. Their article for Climate Outreach is here:
    http://opencharities.org/charities/1123315

    One of the best places to start unraveling the tangled web of green financing is the Environmental Funders Network – an NGO which tells Green NGOs where to go with their begging bowls. Here is a document that summarises where the money went and where it came from 2012 to 2016.

    https://www.greenfunders.org/where-the-green-grants-went-7/

    Anyone feel motivated?

    Like

  2. Geoff, those are useful links – thank you.

    I’m motivated, but it’s the enormity of the task that’s daunting. There are so many organisations sucking at the teat, and there are so many teats, including in the form of money from Governments and governmental bodies, that don’t seem to be terribly easy to find one’s way around (unless you have the inside track, of course, which we don’t). There’s also the complexity of the inter-relatedness of so many of the “green” organisations, foundations and charities, sometimes being the donors of grants and on other occasions being the recipients.

    It might be useful if others are interested if we were to operate on the basis of a clearly defined division of labour. I’m sure there would be a good few articles to be had from this topic, and they could make interesting reading.

    Like

  3. I see two articles here
    #1 The issue of the NGO Size of Wales
    #2 The general issue of green NGO’s their funding, and accountability

    I find it difficult to focus when they are joined together

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  4. stew, I take your point. However, I wanted to focus on climate charities, and the question of whether it is even appropriate for there to be such a thing. Size of Wales was a good way in, I thought, though there might actually be 3 issues:

    Individual charities;
    The question of what it is to be charitable (including the appropriateness or otherwise of them being supported by government funds); and
    Funding and accountability of charities, with particular reference (for our purposes) to climate charities.

    I do agree that this is a big area.

    Like

  5. Just for fun. Marshall spelling out tactics to get lots (1000s) of people (broad cross section of society) willing to be involved in direct action, and attracting people, by not having anti-capitalism signs at he gates..

    He is basically saying the XR tactics that worked 12 years later… (middle class mums and pensioners gluing themselves to the road, etc) and of course XR founders came out of the core climate activists, Plane Stupid, Operation Noah Climate Camp etc..

    oh, and one of the Climate Outreach staffer, I remember her sitting next to me and Josh, at the Oxford Union debate (I’d been invited, so had Andrew Montford and others) to hear LIndzen at the head to Head debate.. the very nice young lady- was there to shame the sceptic (Tara ‘Sparks’ blog – Tara Clarke – who was an activist then, now a ‘senior project manager’ – activist grow up, get jobs in activist think tanks, funded by billionaire foundations (also run by activists, using dead billionaires money) –

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Tara – now with – Climate Outreach

    “I am sorry I was there, I felt like I was a contributor to this horse and pony show. The aim was to shame the sceptic[Lindzen], but we just gave him a stage.”

    http://web.archive.org/web/20130313042955/https://tarascienceblog.wordpress.com/2013/03/09/adding-fuel-to-out-of-date-scepticism/

    Myles Allen (oppsing Lindzen) ended up defending him against ridiculous smears.. http://web.archive.org/web/20130313042955/http://tarascienceblog.wordpress.com/2013/03/09/adding-fuel-to-out-of-date-scepticism/#comment-143

    She was very nice – just an activist (uuterly blind to it)
    http://web.archive.org/web/20130313042955/http://tarascienceblog.wordpress.com/2013/03/09/adding-fuel-to-out-of-date-scepticism/#comment-192

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I was going to post this on Open Mic, but then I saw the philanthropic and charitable references:

    “100 richest UK families urged to commit £1bn to tackle climate crisis
    As UK prepares for environment push at G7 summit, letter asks richest to make climate charitable focus”

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jun/05/100-richest-uk-families-urged-to-commit-1bn-to-tackle-climate-crisis

    “The UK’s 100 richest families are being urged to commit £1bn over the next five years to tackle the climate emergency and halt the destruction of the natural world, as the world prepares for a big push on environmental issues at the G7 summit.

    Each of the 100 richest families in the UK, and the 100 biggest charitable foundations, will receive a letter on Saturday asking them to make the climate and biodiversity crises a focus of their philanthropic efforts, in order to stave off pending disasters that would imperil all their other charitable efforts.

    The letter says: “We are at a tipping point: without concerted and radical action, the current trends of extreme weather, increasingly hostile living conditions and ailing nature will accelerate.”

    The letter does not ask for specific amounts, but the Guardian understands the signatories hope to increase funding by £1bn by 2025. At present, only about 4% of the money from UK philanthropic trusts and foundations goes to environmental causes, including climate change.”

    That last statement might be true, but as we’ve seen, they get a lot of money from Governments and many are big business.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I should have added that there is also a push to conflate two issues, which are increasingly in opposition to one another:

    “The UK’s 100 richest families are being urged to commit £1bn over the next five years to tackle the climate emergency and halt the destruction of the natural world”.

    “Tackling the climate emergency” increasingly seems to involve the destruction of the natural world.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. dfhunter, for me the key paragraph in that link, relevant to my article, is this:

    “Aside from the distinguishing feature that a not-for-profit organization does not distribute profits to its owners, many nonprofits have much in common with for-profit organizations. While some not-for-profit organizations use only volunteer labor, for example, many large or even medium-sized nonprofits are likely to require a staff of paid full-time employees, managers, and directors. Indeed, since not-for-profit enterprises wish to accomplish their objectives in the same way as for-profit enterprises, business tactics and management techniques honed in the for-profit world often work well in not-for-profit organizations too.”

    Like

  10. This article neatly links two themes that I bang on about:

    Firstly, the incongruity (to my mind) of charitable status for organisations that bang on about climate change; and

    Secondly, the way in which the world of climate alarmism, having first being rocked back on its heels by the sight of a real crisis, in the form of covid, is now seeking to harness covid (both directly and subliminally) to push the climate change agenda:

    “Covid-19 pandemic forced a ‘wake up’ to climate crisis”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-suffolk-57359951

    “A charity which has protected threatened landscapes equivalent in size to Cyprus said Covid-19 had made people wake up to the climate crisis.

    The World Land Trust (WLT), based in Halesworth, Suffolk, works with partners to secure at-risk habitats.

    Its latest campaign, to protect forests in Tanzania, raised an “incredible” £400,000 in five weeks.

    “In the past 18 months, people have realised how important landscapes are,” said Dan Bradbury, a director at WLT.

    “People are waking up – we have a biodiversity crisis and climate crisis, and I think people have seen the link with that and the pandemic.

    “Also, during the lockdown, people were heading out into open spaces and hearing the birds sing, and loving being outdoors, and have seen how important landscapes are to them.”

    The charity was set up in 1989, initially to buy and protect habitats used by migrating birds in Belize, Central America.

    From a former shop in Halesworth, it now works with 24 organisations in 34 countries and has helped secure millions of acres, equivalent to the size of Cyprus.”

    Like

  11. from your link above – ”

    “We need to save more land, more species, and we will do this acre by acre,” added Mr Bradbury.
    “It’s incredibly important – we’re on the cusp of this irreversible climate change and we can’t sit and do nothing, we have to do something now.”

    from the web page – “What can I do as an Individual?”

    “The thing to do is to facilitate local people owning and having responsibility for their land
    and the success of WLT in bringing this about has been phenomenal.
    It’s got that absolutely firmly in focus and that’s why I support WLT”

    and you guessed it – “Sir David Attenborough explains in the video below why he became a WLT Patron”

    Like

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