Climate & Energy

Energy is a vital part of modern life.  But the types of energy we use - and how it is produced, used, and disposed of - have major consequences for public health and for communities.  Fossil fuels (oil, gas, and coal), in particular, directly impact health, local air pollution, and drinking water, and they are rapidly worsening global climate change.  Climate change is a serious threat to human health, as global warming emissions trap heat in the atmosphere and trigger a cascade of events like heat waves, droughts, and storms.

Where there are big challenges, there also are big opportunities for positive action.  Moves to address climate and energy challenges can offer win-wins for people, places, communities, and the economy.  The opportunity to support these positive shifts is motivating HEFN members' investments including in:

  • Protection, including to boost climate preparedness and assistance for vulnerable populations.  Grants are helping communities deal with impacts of polluting energy use and intensive energy extraction like oil and gas fracking; mountaintop removal, strip and longwall coal mining; or offshore drilling.  Grants help strengthen protection of health, air, and water quality in decisions on the built environment, transportation, power generation, and land use.
  • Prevention through actions to reduce future harm including by helping enable more participation of health and affected community representatives in decision-making and advocacy for healthier energy and actions to prevent catastrophic climate change.
  • Transformation, with grantmaking to build more resilient communities and to align stakeholders valuing health, communities and the environment in collaboration toward healthier conditions for all. 

HEFN members are approaching climate and energy challenges under two focus areas:


Climate, Health, and Equity

The Lancet has described climate change as the most important public health opportunity of these times. Meeting that opportunity will not just protect the climate but will help impacted communities take control of their health and their future. Climate change extends beyond being purely an environmental issue causing dire consequences that threaten the health of people, communities, agriculture, and economies everywhere. As climate change and its associated pollution accelerate, health effects from the causes and the effects of climate change will impact every region of the United States, with many vulnerable populations particularly hard-hit.

HEFN recently released a Climate, Health, and Equity Impact Project report intended to help inform funders investing and groups working in this space as well as expand strategic philanthropic investment in the field. HEFN is also working with partner philanthropy serving organizations (PSO) to develop information that will be featured on PSO websites as a climate, health, and equity toolkit.

Recommended First Reads:

***NEW*** Report: Climate Change, Health, and Equity Survey Findings: Gaps, Needs and Opportunities, a HEFN Report 

Achieving a Climate for Health:  Philanthropy to Promote Health and Justice through the Challenges of Climate Change, a HEFN/ecoAmerica report


Petrochemicals and Plastics

The U.S. is in a new era of oil and gas production that began a decade ago and has important implications for national climate policy and domestic and global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Cheap shale oil and gas are fueling an explosion of petrochemical and plastics production sites, undermine the health of hundreds of local communities.

HEFN's Past Petro Funder Group is for funders supporting efforts to improve the health of communities working to move beyond fossil fuels and the petrochemical economy. This includes oil and gas production and infrastructure, petrochemicals and plastics, and promoting a just transition to healthier energy alternatives.

Recommended First Reads:

Is the Energy Boom in Your Backyard?  Oil and Gas Extraction Threatens Health and Communities Across the United States, a Grantmakers In Health Views from the Field essay

Drilling Deeper: Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing and Related Grantmaking Strategies, a HEFN report

Drilling Deeper: Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing and Related Grantmaking Strategies (4-pager), a HEFN issue brief

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