In 2007 the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Energy Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the Oak Foundation, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation jointly commissioned a study to determine how mankind could definitively “win” the “battle against climate change.” The findings, based on interviews with “150 of the world’s leading experts on energy, climate change, and forests,” were published in a 2007 report titled Design to Win: Philanthropy’s Role in the Fight Against Global Warming. The ClimateWorks Foundation (CWF) was established the following year to promote environmental policies based on the study’s conclusions. The nascent group’s primary financial backers were the Hewlett Foundation, the Packard Foundation, and the McKnight Foundation.
Citing the frequent incidence of “extreme weather conditions” (i.e., floods, droughts, and fires) in various places around the globe, CWF contends that “our planet is already experiencing the early effects of climate change” — a phenomenon which the organization attributes to human industrial activity and its associated greenhouse gas emissions, particularly carbon dioxide (CO2). “In order to minimize these effects,” says CWF, “we must enact smart policies that slash these emissions while allowing economic growth and development to continue.” A failure to take such action by the year 2020 would have “catastrophic” effects, the Foundation warns, whereby “the Earth’s climate will undergo its most rapid and profound transformation since the last Ice Age.”
Chief among CWF’s proposed reforms is the implementation of a global cap-and-trade system by which governments worldwide would levy taxes on CO2 emissions from existing, carbon-based technologies and industries. Such a plan, the Foundation reasons, could persuade industries to pursue “innovation and the clean technology markets needed to prevail in the long term.” By CWF’s reckoning, the cap-and-trade taxes should target five particular sectors, from which “the vast majority of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions originate”:
1) Power: CWF supports campaigns to “stop new investments in conventional coal-fired generating stations,” “reduce emissions from existing power plants,” and “create large-scale markets for renewable sources of energy, like solar and wind.”
2) Buildings and Appliances: CWF endorses “advocacy efforts to advance strong policies and standards that require appliances, buildings, and industrial practices to meet aggressive energy-efficiency targets.”
3) Transport: CWF supports “policies that encourage technologies that enable cars and trucks to go farther while using less fuel and emitting less carbon,” along with “urban growth policies that improve mass transit and increase alternatives to vehicle use.”
4) Forests and Land Use: CWF is a founding partner of the Climate and Land Use Alliance (CLUA), an initiative launched in collaboration with the Packard Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. CLUA “seeks to catalyze the potential of forested and agricultural landscapes to mitigate climate change and deliver economic, social, and ecological benefits.”
5) Industry: According to CWF, “Utility reforms, energy audits, efficiency agreements, and standards for the universal equipment used in many factories can steer capital toward clean technologies [that] cut carbon emissions.”
To help advance its major agendas, CWF has organized the so-called ClimateWorks Network, a worldwide affiliation of environmental activist groups that share funds, scientific expertise, and strategies. This Network consists of the China Sustainable Energy Program, the Climate and Land Use Alliance, the Collaborative Labeling and Appliance Standards Program, the Energy Foundation, the European Climate Foundation, the Global Buildings Performance Network, the Institute for Industrial Productivity, the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, the International Council on Clean Transportation, the Regulatory Assistance Project, and the Shakti Sustainable Energy Program.
In 2008, technology entrepreneur George Polk worked with CWF to develop Project Catalyst, which would prove to be the most significant private participant in the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference. In 2009 Polk, a CWF executive board member, collaborated with George Soros to create the Soros Climate Initiative, a $1 billion investment effort focused on “accelerating the development and diffusion of climate change technologies and business models.”