What can philanthropy do for the climate? Strategic pathways for climate giving

Eléonore Delanoë, Arthur Gautier and Anne-Claire Pache

Was 2020 the year that philanthropy recognised the part it had to play in the climate crisis?

Though marked by other crises, it was a year of banner funding pledges for climate: in February 2020, Bill and Melinda Gates revealed, in a letter marking the 20th anniversary of their foundation, that they now considered climate change as one of their top priorities. A few days before that, Jeff Bezos announced a $10 billion gift to combat climate change. Among the first recipients of this gift, we find organizations renowned for their commitment against climate change such as the World Wild Fund, the Energy Foundation or the ClimateWorks Foundation.

These announcements highlight the increasing commitment of philanthropists for climate. A group of young foundations with liberal values, predominantly based in the United States, have been at the core of this dynamic. For many, the goal of the Paris Agreement to keep the increase in global average temperature below 2°C, above pre-industrial levels, is a rallying point. With its long-time horizon, its political independence, and its ability to fund innovation, philanthropy has unquestionable strengths to bring to the table.

Yet, philanthropic resources remain relatively small compared to states or international organisations, and certainly insufficient given the magnitude of the issue and the resources needed to sustain the current mitigation scenarios. If philanthropy is not in a position to bridge the climate financing gap, how can it make the most of its limited resources to maximise its impact in the field of climate?

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