Climategate: WWF, the 'Para-Governmental Organization' at the Center of the Storm

What exactly is WWF? The mission of the self-described “conservation organization” is so nebulous that it is not even entirely clear for what words the acronym stands. Back in 1961, when WWF was founded as a private initiative, the initials stood for “World Wildlife Fund.” These are undoubtedly the words that most Americans at least still associate with them. In the meanwhile, however -- since WWF began, as its online FAQ explains, “expand[ing] its work to conserve the environment as a whole (reflecting the interdependence of all living things)” -- the official name of the organization has been changed to “WWF-World Wide Fund For Nature.” “More and more, however,” the FAQ entry continues tautologically, “ ... WWF is known as simply ‘WWF’” -- i.e., who cares what it stands for!

What we do know, however, is that WWF has in recent years been one of the principal purveyors of climate alarmism. It would seem that the organization has still further expanded its brief to cover the conservation not only of “all living things,” but even of that non-living and, frankly, purely notional thing known as “climate.” It was thus WWF that served as the cited source for the IPCC’s now famously debunked claim, according to which at current rates of “warming” the Himalayan glaciers could be expected to melt by 2035. Indeed, Donna Laframboise has turned up dozens of citations of WWF in the IPCC’s 2007 “Fourth Assessment Report,” on everything from “mudflows and avalanches” to the allegedly destructive effects of climate change on “marine fish and shellfish.” Richard North of the EUReferendum blog has uncovered yet another dodgy WWF-referenced claim on the alleged effects of climate change on the Amazonian forests.

That the IPCC’s assessment would rely so heavily on the claims of an activist organization raises obvious questions about its objectivity. But the issues raised by the IPCC’s reliance on WWF are even more troubling than might appear on first glance. For exactly what sort of activist organization is WWF? It is commonly assumed that it is a private advocacy organization funded by donations from the public: in other words, a “non-governmental organization” or “NGO.” But closer inspection of WWF’s finances reveals that the “NGO” moniker is here -- as indeed in so many cases -- a misnomer. It would be more accurate to describe WWF rather as a “PGO”: a para-governmental organization. In fact, WWF receives massive funding from states. Moreover, it receives massive funding not from just any states, but from precisely that federation of states that has made combating supposed “global warming” into one of its highest policy priorities, if not indeed its highest priority -- namely, the European Union.

According to European Commission data, WWF was awarded nearly €9 million in EU support in 2008 alone. In 2007, the figure was over €7.5 million. Most of this support came in the form of ostensibly project-linked grants to WWF-International or its national affiliates. It is typical for the EU to provide support to so-called NGOs in the form of project grants. The largest single grant -- bizarrely, for €3,499,999 -- went to WWF-International in 2007. Its ostensible purpose was for a project on “Strengthening Indigenous Community Based Forest Enterprises (CBFEs) in Priority Ecoregions in Latin America, Asia-Pacific and Africa.”

Intriguingly, in the same year, WWF-International was awarded €128,700 out of the EU’s research budget, under the heading “RTD support for Community [i.e. EU] policies.” “RTD” stands for “Research and Technological Development.” The subject of this “research support” for EU policies is not provided in the Commission’s so-called “Financial Transparency” database. But the code number for the contract (CCR.IES.C382691.X0.2) indicates that it was connected to the EU’s Institute for Environment and Sustainability (IES) -- perhaps to the latter’s Climate Change Unit.