Environmental charities ditch cryptocurrencies after admitting they damage the planet

·3-min read
Some charities have scrapped cryptocurrency projects in recent months after a backlash over the technology’s carbon footprint - Edgar Su/Reuters
Some charities have scrapped cryptocurrency projects in recent months after a backlash over the technology’s carbon footprint - Edgar Su/Reuters

Environmental charities are abandoning cryptocurrencies over climate change concerns.

Charities including Greenpeace, the WWF and International Animal Rescue have scrapped cryptocurrency projects in recent months after a backlash over the technology’s carbon footprint.

Finn Brownbill, who led International Animal Rescue’s cryptocurrency work, said the charity made more than £50,000 from donations last year after it began accepting donations in Bitcoin, Ethereum and several other smaller currencies.

But the charity decided to completely sever ties with cryptocurrencies “overnight” after carrying out research into their environmental impact.

Cryptocurrencies and digital artworks known as NFTs, both traded on blockchains including Bitcoin and Ethereum, lead to significant emissions due to the energy-intensive way in which transactions are verified.

Multiple powerful computers compete to solve complex puzzles, with the winner gaining a cryptocurrency reward for verifying the trade.

The environmental impact is considerable, with the analysis website Digiconomist estimating the annual carbon footprint of Ethereum as roughly similar to the country of Morocco.

Mr Brownbill said: “We decided no, this goes against the values of the charity, it goes against the values of most environmental charities.

“We didn’t just slow down our endeavours into the crypto space, we released a statement, removed our crypto wallet and ended relationships with all potential and existing partners overnight.”

In February, the WWF halted its sale of NFTs, digital artworks which are regularly bought and sold for thousands of pounds, after criticism from both environmentalists and cryptocurrency enthusiasts.

In a statement at the time, the charity said it had decided to “bring this trial to a close”.

“We recognise that NFTs are a much debated issue and we all have lots to learn about this new market, which is why we will now fully assess the impact of this trial," it said.

Greenpeace’s US branch also closed its seven-year long programme accepting Bitcoin donations last year, stating that “as the amount of energy needed to run Bitcoin became clearer, this policy became no longer tenable.”

The Irish charity The Dublin Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals also backed out of an NFT fundraiser in February after criticism over its environmental impact.

Refusing donations

It came after Wikipedia editors requested this week that the Wikimedia Foundation, which runs the site, stop accepting cryptocurrency donations for environmental reasons.

Molly White, a software engineer and volunteer Wikipedia editor who blogs about cryptocurrency on her site "Web3 is going great", said: "It's increasingly difficult to understand how a charity can decide to engage with NFTs without predicting it might go badly - doubly so for the environmental and conservation-focused charities."

The Fundraising Regulator is considering including cryptocurrencies in its code of fundraising practice, currently under review.

“We’ll explore the extent to which new ways of fundraising and donating - including cryptocurrencies - are shaping fundraising practice and whether there are gaps in the code or guidance that need to be addressed,” a spokesman said.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting