Impact: Artists For ClientEarth
23 Jun 2022
For the past two years, GCC has been working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions produced by the art sector. Despite the urgency for climate action within the sector, we recognise that on a global scale these emissions make up a relatively small part of the overall climate catastrophe.
In order to help accelerate urgent environmental action globally, GCC has committed to raising funds from within the art market in order to support vital work being done by frontline environmental organisations.
Through it’s Strategic Climate Funds and other partnerships, GCC seeks out projects that will have the most strategic impact over the next few years - rather than schemes that promise to neutralise a specific amount of carbon – which tend to have long timescales, unverifiable figures, and rarely involve any social or cultural change. The criteria for funding are: initiatives that span the three major areas where urgent climate action is needed (keeping fossil fuels in the ground, defending and expanding forests and wetlands & shifting to climate-friendly agriculture) and where the money will:
- make a significant and strategic impact between now and 2030.
- not just help shift the world onto a lower carbon path, but also support those who are impacted most by climate change. Such projects have other social benefits too.
- allow you to tell powerful stories about how this money was spent.
ClientEarth (a law firm and environmental charity) was the first initiative GCC identified as a potential recipient for these funds. ClientEarth approaches the climate crisis in a unique and systemic way, by using the law, and their team of specialist lawyers in hubs in Europe, Asia and the US, to challenge industries, corporations and governments that are involved in the most polluting activities. In 2017, they were named the ‘UK’s most effective environmental organisation’ by the Environmental Funders Network.
In July 2021, GCC announced it was joining forces with global auction house and GCC Patron, Christie’s, in a groundbreaking collaboration, ‘Artists for ClientEarth’, with the intention of raising $1m of unrestricted funds to support their operations globally.
Artworks were generously donated for auction by leading figures of the contemporary art world - Cecily Brown, Rashid Johnson, Xie Nanxing, Antony Gormley & Beatriz Milhazes (pictured right). These works were placed in marquee sales at Christie's 20th/21st Century auctions, internationally. In order to reduce the CO2e emissions associated with shipping - a primary source of the carbon emissions produced within the art world - each piece listed as local to each location as possible; Cecily Brown and Antony Gormley were featured in the London sale, Rashid Johnson in New York and Xie Nanxing in Hong Kong. As of June 2022, GCC and Christie’s have raised in excess of $6.5m for ClientEarth. GCC would like to thank the artists and their galleries for their generosity and for making this project such a success.
"The auction series, Artists For ClientEarth, has been transformative for ClientEarth. The series has been our biggest single funder in 2021.'' - James Thornton, ClientEarth President and Founder
Since the first auction ClientEarth have continued their fight against dirty coal throughout Europe and China and are currently suing the UK government for its inadequate net zero plans. They have challenged the EU's support for investment into biomass fuels and supported an action against the Ghanaian government who plan to allow mining in the Atewa Forest Reserve, one of the world's biodiversity hotspots. They have launched a litigation strategy to protect rainforests, the animals and people who live with them, globally including the Amazon, West Africa and South East Asia. They're taking legal action against EU fisheries ministers for setting limits which encourage overfishing. Along with other environmental NGOs, they're going to court in France to hold fossil fuel giant Total accountable over greenwashing, with the ambition to define the meaning of 'net zero' in popular understanding. Most recently they have also started world-first legal action with a case which seeks to hold Shell’s Board liable for mismanaging climate risk.