Less than 2 percent of global philanthropic funding is dedicated to climate change mitigation, which, according to a report from the ClimateWorks Foundation, is not nearly enough to meet the scale of the global challenge.
The report, Funding Trends: Climate Change Mitigation Philanthropy (11 pages, PDF), estimates that between $5 billion and $9 billion of the $730 billion in total global philanthropic giving in 2019 — including about $1.6 billion in foundation funding and between $3.4 billion and $7 billion in individual donations — was designated for efforts to address climate change. While funding for climate change mitigation from leading foundations with climate-focused programs nearly doubled between 2015 and 2019, U.S. foundations overall allocated no more than 2 percent of their grantmaking dollars to address climate change in 2016-17.
According to the report, annual global grantmaking for climate change mitigation between 2015 and 2019 averaged $1.1 billion, including $360 million for U.S.-based efforts and $310 million in support of global initiatives. In terms of sector, $140 million annually was awarded in support of clean electricity; $140 million for public engagement efforts; $110 million for efforts targeting the fossil fuel industry; $100 million in support of forests; $75 million each for sustainable finance, capacity building, and governance, diplomacy, and legal issues; and $50 million each to "green" transportation and food and agricultural systems.
The report's authors note that the industrial ($25 million) and building ($40 million) sectors collectively received less than 8 percent of climate change-focused foundation dollars, even though they account for 26 percent of direct GHG emissions reductions needed to meet international climate targets under the Paris Agreement. In addition, only $25 million was allocated to address carbon dioxide removal, despite scientific research showing that removing vast amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is necessary if the global community is to achieve the target laid out by the agreement.
"Philanthropy can increase global ambition, support innovative solutions, scale proven mitigation strategies, and drive collaborative actions," the report's authors write. "Philanthropy can also take risks that the public and private sectors can't or won't take. It can support frontline advocacy, emerging but unproven breakthrough technologies, and unique collaborations that bring together voices from the public, private, and civil society sectors to solve the climate crisis."
"As funding for climate change mitigation increases, the deployment of those dollars needs to be calibrated across the areas most important to solving the climate crisis, accounting for emissions sectors, geographies, and societal implications," said Surabi Menon, vice president of global intelligence at the ClimateWorks Foundation. "Philanthropic funding is precious, and funders need the best research and analysis to make strategic investment decisions that yield the highest impact."