More power to youth: Doing climate philanthropy differently


Joshua Amponsem and Nathan Méténier


Last month 16 young people from Montana sent shockwaves through the environmental and legal communities. A landmark legal decision affirmed that young people have an inherent right to a clean environment. It’s a judgment that signifies both a monumental shift in climate litigation and highlights the growing importance of empowering youth movements in their fight for climate justice.

Joshua Amponsem

As the UN Secretary-General warns of an ‘era of global boiling,’ we find hope in the resilience and determination of young climate justice campaigners. Young people have led the way from historic mobilizations across dozens of cities to groundbreaking policies such as the European Green Deal and the Inflation Reduction Act. Their most recent triumph involves rallying nations to establish a Loss & Damage Fund and compelling the UN General Assembly to examine the intersection of climate change and human rights. The impact of our youth movements is seriously impressive.

However, youth climate justice movements around the world are drastically underfunded. Last year we revealed a stark reality: youth-led climate justice initiatives receive a meagre 0.76 percent of all climate grants from major foundations. This scarcity of resources hampers the progress that youth movements can make on behalf of us all and perpetuates a grim inequality within the climate and social activism space itself.

Nathan Méténier

In response to these findings, some youth climate justice leaders, including former and current members of the UN Secretary-General’s Youth Advisory Group, embarked on an audacious mission: the establishment of a youth-led Youth Climate Justice Fund.

As part of the Youth Climate Justice Fund, we want to do philanthropy differently by placing youth climate justice leaders at the core of everything we do. We want to build two things: robust youth climate justice leadership, and trust between youth movements and funders. The first part is driven by the Fund, which is led by young people coming from various part of the youth climate justice movements. This model enables agency and decision-making over grant making to otherwise excluded young leaders. The Youth Climate Justice Fund has launched its first round of funding, thanks to support from several international philanthropies. We are focusing our funding and resources most especially on groups led by young people who have historically faced marginalisation, including those from communities of colour, women, queer collectives, indigenous peoples, and local communities.

‘True impact necessitates a holistic approach—funding must transcend project-specific needs to encompass support for well-being, convening events, and resilience tools, ensuring the endurance and effectiveness of youth organizers.’

As we built the Youth Climate Justice Fund, we realised that too often the most ambitious participative grant-making systems only operate in English. We’ve decided to make our application process inclusive and accessible to diverse groups by translating our call for applications into seven languages: Spanish, Portuguese, French, Swahili, Arabic, Hindi, and English. Additionally, we’ve recruited Regional Leads in several regions to assist groups in applying and translating their ideas into funding applications.

But while we can show a new way of giving, it is the philanthropy sector more broadly that can really accelerate the change we seek. We are championing a set of best practices that funders can adopt to better support youth-led climate justice movements through their own granting and work.

On the financial side, philanthropy should invest in the leadership and capacity of young climate justice leaders, nurturing their skills and capabilities to lock in the sustainability and impact of their initiatives. Given the dangerous contexts young people work in, funders should earmark resources for safety and security tools, creating secure environments for their invaluable work. Lastly, true impact necessitates a holistic approach—funding must transcend project-specific needs to encompass support for well-being, convening events, and resilience tools, ensuring the endurance and effectiveness of youth organizers.

Even this is not enough on its own. To ensure youth voices become and stay central, funders should incorporate youth organizers into their governance structures, offering advisory and board-level positions. Funders should also decisively shift toward participative grantmaking, actively engaging youth organizers in the grant allocation process, and drawing from their unique perspectives and experiences to direct resources where they will make maximum impact. Finally, given the long term and unpredictable challenges we face, funders should give multi-year and flexible funding.

As we celebrate the launch of the Youth Climate Justice Fund during NY Climate Action Week as their official Environmental Justice partner this September, we invite philanthropic actors to step up their support to our precious youth climate justice movements. In this time of polycrisis, there is no better investment than the younger generation who desperately want to change their world – our world – for the better. Let’s work together to help the next generation.

Joshua Amponsem, founder Green Africa Youth Organization and Strategy Director at the Youth Climate Justice Fund

Nathan Méténier, Former UN Secretary General’s Youth Advisor, Development Director at the Youth Climate Justice Fund

Comments (0)

skibidi toilet io

Thanks for your information!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *