On thin ice

A guide for philanthropists and changemakers to address climate change

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Many words have been spoken about how the world needs to reverse years of environmental harm. But those words will mean nothing if we don't actually do anything.

Whether as philanthropists, investors, business leaders or individuals, you can be a crucial part of raising awareness of climate change risks and impacts.

Download the guide to read more about the issues and solutions, and learn from experts and other philanthropists. Inside, you’ll find concrete tips on how to embrace a holistic approach, address energy transition and climate justice, conduct sustainable finance solutions and much more.

A snapshot of the guide can be found below.

A guide for all who wish to address climate change!

On thin ice combines the expertise of more than 40 climate experts, philanthropists and changemakers, with UBS´s twenty plus years of experience in advising clients on making an effective impact. Find out how you can make a difference.

Wise words

Photo of Christiana Figueres

Christiana Figueres

Co-host of Outrage and Optimism and former UN climate chief

“Humanity faces a crucial decision. If we continue as we are, we will continue to wreak destruction on our planet and ourselves. But we can choose to make a change – to choose a path of restoration and renewal. We can manage the negative impacts of climate change, reduce the damage and adapt to the consequences.

But we can only make this choice now. This decade, right here right now, is the one – we have the power, the capital, the technology, the policies we need. And we have the science to support our progress and to underline the need to halve our emissions by 2030.”

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Justin Rockefeller

Rockefeller Brothers Fund and The ImPact

"Collaborations are vital in protecting the planet. The primary reason homo sapiens emerged as the dominant species is because of our ability to collaborate. It’s like the old expression: “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” For every problem that bothers you, there are talented people already working on it. Rather than reinventing the wheel, trade notes with families on a similar journey. You don’t need to figure this all out on your own. Join a group of peers, and ask professionals how you can align your values with your investments."

Fast Facts: Climate change situation

Rising temperatures

Greenhouse gases already in our atmosphere will push global temperatures to around 2.3°C above pre-industrial levels unless we successfully remove carbon and reverse the trend.


Climate change could push 132 million people into poverty over the next 10 years – and result in an estimated 20% increase in malnourished children by 2050.

Greenhouse gas emissions

92% of accumulated greenhouse gas emissions are from the “Global North” which accounts for only 19% of the world's population.

Paris Agreement

To stay within the 1.5 degree limit set by the Paris Agreement we need to invest 4.3 trillion USD per year. Estimated less than 2% of global philanthropic giving goes to climate change.

Tips to take action

Raise awareness

  • Using science-based facts to remain credible and avoid spreading false messages
  • Financing a campaign across various formats, such as a documentary, cartoon, social media campaign or publication

Embrace a holistic approach

  • Looking to support programs that build resilience and reduce harm across the environment and society. Think climate, community AND conservation
  • Scaling-up groundbreaking technologies, while implementing nature-based solutions as nature and human ingenuity can work wonders together

Address the energy transition

  • Raising awareness on the devastating effects of air pollution, train policymakers on the benefits of low-carbon electricity, and build strong leadership
  • Focusing on developing innovations from the demand side
  • Investing in clean energy projects and infrastructure, especially in emerging markets and developing countries

Address climate justice

  • Educate and provide skills that empower disadvantaged or uninformed communities regarding their rights
  • Create partnerships that fairly represent various groups and support responsible policy making

Add a climate lens to your philanthropy

  • Start from the area you’re passionate about – for example education – and see if through your programs you could also contribute to address climate change – in our example by add climate education to the school curricumlum
  • Reflect on how climate change affects the people you support, adapt and improve your programs to magnify your impact

Support policymaking and enforcement

  • Use your voting rights to put climate change at the top of their agendas
  • Encourage economists, researchers and policymakers to collaborate on new science-backed policies
  • Lobby regional and national governments to drastically reduce and sequester (isolate) emissions

Promote climate education and research

  • Support scientists and fund research in your area of interest to bridge the gap between research and new government policies
  • Bring environmental science into school curriculums, to help children appreciate and protect nature, and educate decision-makers and policymakers

Use innovative investments

  • Investing in blended finance solutions (investments that mix philanthropic funds with public and private sector finance) that can address climate change. Blended finance solutions attract commercial capital for sustainable projects, while potentially providing returns for investors
  • Investing in multilateral development bank (MDB) bonds that aim to conserve biodiversity and support climate resilience in ecosystems
  • Investing in sustainable investments, which aim to provide returns comparable to traditional investments, while putting money to work for good

Collaborate in collectives

  • Increasing impact by building on existing solutions where possible – join a collective or foundation to combine funds and resources; support programs with provable scalable solutions; work with governments; and rollout proven solutions
  • Involving the community around you, raising awareness about the environmental threats and starting positive collaborations

This is just a small selection of the guide, highlighting actions to address climate change. To understand these and other issues surrounding SDG 13 Climate action, read the full On thin ice(PDF, 36 MB) guide.

In focus

Hear from our changemakers

Ginger Krieg Dosier, Biomason President & CEO

Biomason creates biocement without carbon emissions by using natural microorganisms, similar to how coral reefs are formed. Concrete is the second-most consumed substance on the planet after water and it accounts for 8% of global CO2 emissions due to the firing of materials such as limestone and the calcination process. Biomason's goal is for its biocement to reduce 25% of carbon emissions from the concrete industry by 2030.

Ginger is a UBS Global Visionary

Chris Bessenecker & Jennifer Waugaman, AfriScout, Co-Founders

AfriScout is the only grazing management service designed for and with pastoralists, and has leveraged their local insights, cultural practices, languages and contextual knowledge of grazing areas. Pastoralists hold the key to regenerating Africa's severely degraded drylands through the practice of rotational grazing. Rotational grazing helps to prevent overgrazing, restore biodiversity, and regenerate pasture. Once regenerated, these landscapes become huge carbon sinks, capable of sequestering millions of tonnes of carbon every year and mitigating the worst impacts of climate change.

Chris and Jennifer are UBS Optimus Foundation partners and UBS Global Visionaries

Sneak peek

Some key quotes from the guide

Photo of Yishan Wong

Yishan Wong,
Terraformation Inc.,
CEO and Founder; and UBS Global Visionary

The biggest proof of our success will be the world having very different climate conversations in ten years’ time. Instead of gloomy predictions, we’ll be having aspirational conversations about just how far we can go to restore our planet.

Photo of Jonathan Foley

Dr. Jonathan Foley,
Executive Director, Project Drawdown

We all have the opportunity to address climate change — whether as a voter, a community member, a consumer, an employee, an investor or a friend. Find your superpowers and get to work.

Photo of Helen Mountford

Helen Mountford,
President and CEO, ClimateWorks Foundation

Philanthropy is an essential partner to government, private and civil actors to help drive real-world impact. But to maximize impact, we need to think even bigger and collaborate in even more radical ways to ensure investments in climate action are targeted to amplify our collective impact.

Photo of Prof Koh Lan Pin

Prof Koh Lan Pin,
National University of Singapore

Addressing climate change requires far-reaching changes in human societies and economies. It requires us to overhaul food systems; how we manage natural environments; and how we make, use and transport energy and goods.

This is just a taster – to learn more about all the opportunities to be more effective, read On thin ice…

If you’re passionate about the oceans, please check out our previous guide, Sea Beyond the Blue…

If you're passionate to understand issues surrounding SDG 15 Life on Land, please check out our previous guide, Seeds of Change...

If want to learn more about how to achieve better health for all, please check out our previous guide, Picture of health...

Need our expert help to shape your giving? Get in touch…