The European Environmental Funders Group (EEFG) annual meeting on the 12th and 13th November, hosted in Philanthropy House, Brussels saw the members of the network come together to discuss and dissect the potential impact and changes that could be caused by the upcoming European elections and priorities and funding after Europe 2020.
The first day of the meeting presented a preview and the key findings from a new EFC mapping on environmental funding in Europe, ”Environmental funding by European foundations – volume 4”. Written as in previous years by Jon Cracknell, Director of The Goldsmith Family Philanthropy, the mapping is a collation and aggregation of data from a multitude of European organisations on environmental funding practices and initiatives in Europe with an eye to highlighting key trends and areas for future growth in environmental funding. It is due to be published in early 2019.
The opening session ‘Europe 2020 – thinking ahead: challenges and perspectives’ heard from Philipp Offenberg, Analyst at the European Political Strategy Centre (EPSC) and Sven Schade, Policy Officer SMEs and Business for the environment, Directorate General for Environment, European Commission. Key takeaways included:
- Large funding areas coming up for European Commission, with three areas of interest for EC DG Environment: Circular economy; land use/biodev food; and cities/urban development
- The Social window of InvestEU includes all projects with societal value and would also cover environmental projects which support job creation. Starts in 2021.
- A new programme – Horizon Europe – will build on the achievements and success of the previous research and innovation programme (Horizon 2020) and keep the EU at the forefront of global research and innovation. Horizon Europe is the most ambitious research and innovation programme ever.
The session ‘European elections 2019: previsions and potential impact on the environmental Sector’ heard from Doru Frantescu, CEO & Co- founder, VoteWatch Europe and Elizabeth Drury, EU advocacy specialist. Mr Frantescu pointed out that there will be a shake up as this will be the first election without the UK, whose seats will be mostly redistributed but with some kept for new Balkan states when they join. He outlined:
- That the countries getting more votes are, in general, more pro-environment leaning
- However, in general balance of pro/anti will remain more or less stable
- Which MEPs are the most influential across the political spectrum
Elizabeth Drury concurred saying that the voting could exceed the traditional 50% turnout. She stated that it has been more challenging working on environmental policies during the last parliament due to the increase in populist parties. A summary of her points includes:
- ALDE and centrist forces will continue playing pivotal role as “kingmakers”.
- When funding NGOs, if they are new they will need time to prepare and make connections. More time is needed for them to prepare campaigns in advance of the legislative package going through parliament.
- Parliament is traditionally the most pro-environmental of the EU institutions.
- Conviction is powerful, compared to paid lobbyists, but people need to stick together.
- Coalitions work best, with common positions on issues, but this takes time and energy. The Opposition is adept at divide and rule.
- Coordinated messaging is key. You can’t rely on greens and socialists to hold hands in parliament, you need to make efforts with centrist and even right parties. You never know where you will find your allies on the political spectrum.
- Consider funding new senior positions for advocacy with experience.
- National party leaders are key, as issues are often looked at nationally. Invite top of the list candidates to visit projects.
The second day of the annual meeting kicked off by building upon some of the discussions of previous meetings and looked at civil society engagement and participation and the tools needed to communicate with the greater public. The discussion saw speakers from different NGO’s such as OPEN and LIFE Choona discuss how their organisations communicate with the public and get people to engage with topics at hand, through tools such as social media and multimedia productions. A key message to emerge from the speakers was firstly, that providing consistent communications and being always available was key, and secondly by targeting a specific audience, and them utilising them to spread the message through their own networks, you can reach a wider audience on a more consistent basis.
The morning’s activities were rounded off by a funders-only workshop on what the network can do together moving forward and was followed by an afternoon joint meeting of the EEFG and Gender Equality networks to discuss the usage of gender lens’ with environmental policies and practices.
The European Environmental Funders Group (EEFG) is part of the EFC’s ongoing commitment to enhancing collaboration and connecting its members. For more information on the EFC’s seven key priorities, please download the EFC Strategic Framework 2016-2022.