Some of the most established environmental groups in the U.S. will be among those that receive the first grants from the Bezos Earth Fund, a signal that Jeff Bezos is more interested in supporting existing infrastructure than using his substantial pledge to try something new in the climate space.
When the billionaire and Amazon founder announced a $10 billion pledge to fighting climate change through his Bezos Earth Fund, the details of the commitment were scant but the possibilities for the sum – larger than all the recent philanthropic commitments to climate change in recent years combined – was great. However, in the intervening months, other global events eclipsed the attention of the world and information about the direction of the Bezos Earth Fund stayed private.
Now, plans for the Earth Fund are starting to become public. According to The Atlantic, one hundred million dollars each will go to the World Resources Institute, Nature Conservancy, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the World Wildlife Fund. Smaller amounts of $10 million to $50 million will also go to the Energy Foundation, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the ClimateWorks Foundation, and the Rocky Mountain Institute.
Many of the organisations included among this group of grantees hold a pollution-centric view of global warming and favour technocratic solutions. None are groups that can be politically involved, nor are any racial or environmental-justice groups.
The Funders for Just and Equitable Climate Solutions addressed Bezos in an open letter earlier this year, asking him to consider using his Fund to explore new and radical ways to address global warming:
‘We have seen that it is a mistake for major donors to focus their giving on large and mainstream environmental organizations, the so-called Big Greens, often criticized for causing environmental harm through their false solutions such as carbon offset schemes that allow their corporate donors to continue polluting,’ the letter states. ‘But more than that, to truly combat climate change, we need local solutions developed by local leaders who are building resilient regional ecosystems and economies that will enable us to meet our needs in a post-carbon world.’
The grants so far represent at most $700 million, or seven per cent of Bezos’ initial commitment. However a Bezos Earth Fund representative commented: ‘This list does not reflect the complete range of organisations that the Earth Fund has been speaking with and that will be receiving grants from the fund in this initial round – stay tuned.’
Correction 4/11/20: An earlier version of this story said that the Earth Fund had made an announcement about these funding commitments. An official announcement has not yet been made.