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Creatures of the Green Lagoon: ClimateWorks Foundation

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Energy Foundation | ClimateWorks Foundation


The ClimateWorks Foundation

Like the Energy Foundation, the ClimateWorks Foundation was conceived in 2006 as a joint pass-through project of multiple major grantmaking foundations: the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and the McKnight Foundation. Unlike the Energy Foundation, ClimateWorks was founded as a 501(c)(3) public charity and not a private foundation.

They’re similarly sized organizations, too. Between 2006 and 2018, ClimateWorks reported total revenues exceeding $1.5 billion and paid out grants of $1.05 billion, slightly larger than the Energy Foundation, making ClimateWorks perhaps the single largest funder solely dedicated to funding the environmental Left. Close to $1.3 billion of that $1.5 billion has been tracked back to a collection of huge left-wing foundations, notably:

  • Hewlett Foundation ($667 million)
  • Packard Foundation ($481 million)
  • McKnight Foundation ($38.6 million)
  • MacArthur Foundation ($26.5 million)
  • Margaret A. Cargill Foundation (major environmental funder) ($13.3 million)
  • Oak Foundation USA (U.S. branch of the Swiss-based Oak Foundation) ($5.7 million)
  • Grantham Foundation for Protection of the Environment (British investor Jeremy Grantham) ($5.5 million)
  • Gordon E. and Betty I. Moore Foundation (Intel founder) ($4.1 million)
  • Heising-Simons Foundation (Liz Simons and Mark Heising) ($3.3 million)
  • Barr Foundation (telecomm billionaire Amos Barr Hostetter, Jr.) ($3.2 million)
  • Good Ventures Foundation (Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and wife Cari Tuna) ($3 million)

If Hewlett and Packard sound familiar, they should—the foundations are the philanthropic vehicles of the respective co-founders of Hewlett-Packard (HP Inc. since 2015). The Palo Alto–based PC and electronics manufacturer was founded in 1939 that paved the way for the later success of Silicon Valley. David Packard, who served as Richard Nixon’s defense secretary from 1969 to 1971, died in 1996, and Bill Hewlett died in 2001. In the decades since their deaths, their respective foundations have become enormous funders of the activist Left.

Besides the Hewlett-Packard-McKnight trifecta, ClimateWorks was conceived with input from the Energy Foundation, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Oak Foundation, and Joyce Foundation (whose board once included then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL)). The input was organized in a 2007 report titled “Design to Win: Philanthropy’s Role in the Fight Against Global Warming,” sponsored by the foundations.

Highlights from the report for “philanthropy” to reshape “the building blocks of the world economy” include:

  • “Global, collective action is critical for reducing the numerous drivers of climate change, but philanthropy must focus its efforts.”
  • “A cap on carbon output—and an accompanying market for emissions permits—will prompt a sea change that washes over the entire economy.”
  • “Philanthropy must promote renewables and low-emission alternatives.”
  • “Emissions from existing coal plants should be reduced and new investments in coal-fired generating stations should be discouraged by stressing efficiency and renewable alternatives, such as wind and solar.”
  • “National and/or sector-specific carbon caps are absolutely essential for reining in top emitters, such as steel mills and cement plants.”
  • “New efficiency and fuel standards will cause vehicles to go farther on less gas and emit less carbon.”

Politics in Disguise

As with the Energy Foundation, this muddies the clear divide between policy and philanthropy. Few Americans would conceive of “support[ing] development of sector-specific emissions caps within and among countries”—international cap-and-trade or carbon tax schemes—as a legitimate pursuit for charitable foundations commanding billions of tax-exempt dollars, yet these groups’ self-image is that of technocrats paternally obliged to rescue the world from its self-imposed, carbon-induced peril.

ClimateWorks was the solution, a new organization set up to bundle and funnel foundation money to the necessary think tanks, advocacy groups, and activists. Hal Harvey, founder of the Energy Foundation and later Hewlett’s energy program director, became the new organization’s CEO in 2008.

ClimateWorks’ first big project, Project Catalyst, was to provide analysis and policy proposals for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in December 2009, the successor to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol (set to expire in 2012). Project Catalyst produced reports calling for a global agreement that would place “incentives and mandates” on private enterprise to create a low-carbon economy.

Simultaneously, George Polk, a ClimateWorks senior advisor and board member, reportedly advised liberal billionaire George Soros to invest $1 billion into climate-related private equity. According to investigative journalist Peter Schweizer, in April 2009, Soros named Polk representative to the board of Powerspan, a company in which Soros invested and that soon received $100 million from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Post-Copenhagen, ClimateWorks has granted tens of millions of dollars annually to the European Climate Foundation, effectively its European equivalent, which in turn reportedly funnels money to unknown radical “green” groups across the European Union. ClimateWorks’ overseas grantmaking has earned it the ire of India, which in 2014 declared Greenpeace—a radical group and ClimateWorks grantee—a “threat to national economic security” for costing up to 3 percent of the country’s GDP in anti-mining, anti-drilling, anti-coal protests.

Notables from ClimateWorks’ own U.S.-based grantees between 2008 and 2018 include:

  • Energy Foundation ($396 million)
  • Bipartisan Policy Center ($43 million)
  • International Council on Clean Transportation ($38 million)
  • Collaborative Labeling and Appliance Standards Programs ($33 million)
  • Institute for Transportation and Development Policy ($33 million)
  • Regulatory Assistance Project ($30 million)
  • Institute for Industrial Productivity ($19 million)
  • Energy/Green Tech Action Fund ($14 million)
  • Alliance for Climate Protection ($10 million)
  • Rainforest Action Network/Foundation ($9.8 million)
  • World Resources Institute ($8.7 million)
  • Clean Air Task Force ($6.8 million)
  • Natural Resources Defense Council ($5.9 million)
  • Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development ($4.3 million)
  • Environmental Investigation Agency ($3.5 million)
  • Environmental Defense Fund ($2.7 million)
  • New Venture Fund ($2.7 million)

Creatures from the Green Lagoon

The collection of ultra-wealthy foundations and pass-through funders in the Bay Area might be the greatest example of American technocracy—rule by the “experts”—brought to you by plutocrats. It’s that paternalism which characterizes the environmental movement’s biggest donors, who see in climate change a threat too big to be trusted to democracy, let alone any one government.

Hayden Ludwig

Hayden Ludwig is the Director of Policy Research at Restoration of America. He was formerly Senior Investigative Researcher at Capital Research Center. Ludwig is a native of Orange County, California,…
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