The power of Philanthropies at COP27


Alice Amorim


I arrived at COP27 with a lot of excitement and questions. Our goals there were very clear. We wanted to: (1) Promote the Philanthropy for Climate movement to a broader audience; (2) Help our members that have never been to a COP to experience it and leave with potential ideas of what they could do to develop their climate work with their members; (3) Diversify the Philanthropy for Climate movement, welcoming new Global South Philanthropic organisations; (4) Map what philanthropies are already doing at COP, beyond the usual pledges, to understand the gaps and opportunities for the philanthropy for climate movement going forward.

Our programme started with the event Continuum of Capital for Climate Action outside the COP venue, co-organised by WINGS member IVPC and a key supporter of Philanthropy for Climate, Laudes Foundation. We supported them by bringing more people from our own networks to this space, to spark new connections. The discussions were excellent and thought-provoking and gave me a much better understanding of a value chain dimension of capital allocation and where philanthropy must and must not contribute when other financial sector players are much more fit for purpose.

Our public presence continued with the participation in a panel at the FAO/CGIAR and Rockefeller Foundation Food and Agriculture Pavillion, where we held a joint discussion with FAIRR and Planet Tracker on the role of different resources, including philanthropy, in tackling the food resilience and decarbonisation challenge alongside the food prices shocks and insecurity that many countries have been facing. How can a roadmap for food systems structural change help move different stakeholders into more robust food-focused climate action? This conversation will certainly evolve from now until COP28.

On this theme, I rely substantively on the expertise and learnings from our interactions with the Global Alliance for the Future of Food, a collaborative that also includes the involvement of many philanthropies. They also hosted several public and networking events at COP27. As their recently released report has shown, only 3 per cent of public finance resource goes to food systems change and agriculture. Only a tiny fraction of 5.5 per cent of the climate mitigation philanthropy resources, based on the last ClimateWorks data, goes to agriculture. I can assure you that inside the Philanthropy For Climate movement there are several organisations working on strengthening resilience and developing smart agriculture in different parts of the world. Carasso Foundation and Porticus are two examples. Their work and that of many others is not so visible, something that we hope we will be able to contribute next year by publishing more information about it.

Several other philanthropists and philanthropy support organisations, some of them members and partners of WINGS, also gathered to discuss the challenges of philanthropy in the MENA region and beyond. Organised by the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week and Atlantic Council, the roundtable discussion showed the concerns and potential of philanthropies in the region to engage more on climate change issues, such as in the education space highlighted by Dubai Cares in its presence at COP. This regional vision is a critical dimension to be further developed on the road to COP28.

Also on Finance Day at COP, we co-hosted a panel with GIFE and Fundo Socioambiental Casa at the Brazil Climate Action Hub, a space co-sponsored by philanthropy, to showcase and debate the role of new philanthropies coming to the climate agenda and the current experiences and potential to grow of those who are already working on the topic in the Global South. On that occasion, we welcomed seven new philanthropy organisations from Brazil that have signed the International Philanthropy Commitment on Climate Change and are now part of the global Philanthropy For Climate movement. Considering the positive political momentum in Brazil expected to start in 2023 under the recently elected President Lula, it will be exciting to see the role philanthropies with expertise in racial equity, urban planning, education, children’s rights and many other areas will play in bringing the inequalities and climate agendas together. One critical takeaway from this is that we need to create a convergence between the localisation and climate agendas and Brazil can be a good testing ground for this.

As we moved ahead in our efforts to show the different entry points and types of contributions that the philanthropic sector can bring to tackle the climate crisis, we had the honour to host an event at the BankersForNetZero pavilion at the Green Zone to show the stories and potential of philanthropy support organisations in effectively doing climate outreach with their non-climate expert members. We convened a truly global debate and heard from experiences in the Arab region, Latin America, Africa, Europe and Asia. There is a critical demand for better regional communication strategies and locally led data to advance philanthropic involvement in local climate challenges. There is also a critical need for philanthropies that invest in the development and growth of the philanthropic sector everywhere to invest more in the climate skills and resources of the associations that they belong to. If we want to have more scale of action, we need to strengthen those who speak with philanthropies of all kinds.

Throughout the conference, we followed the different financial pledges that were made by philanthropies, a common feature of philanthropic engagement in all COPs. In comparison with COP26, the numbers were unimpressive, but at least they address themes that are clearly very critical. Sales Force announced its $1 million into a Nature Accelerator philanthropic fund to provide non-profits with investment to develop, test and scale climate change programmes faster. Bloomberg Philanthropies, a big sponsor of the UNFCCC pavilion at COP, launched with the U.S. State Department, a Subnational Climate Action Leaders Exchange (SCALE), to help cities, states, and regions develop and implement net-zero, climate-resilient targets and roadmaps.  The focus will be on accelerating the implementation of the Global Methane Pledge launched at COP, therefore very aligned with the spirit of the Implementation COP. The Rockefeller Foundation announced more than US$11 million in grants to ten organisations scaling Indigenous and regenerative agriculture practices worldwide. They also announced, with U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry and the Bezos Earth Fund, a process to design an Energy Transition Accelerator (ETA) with the potential to catalyse private capital for the clean energy transition in emerging and developing economies. The Gates Foundation announced  USD 1.4 billion of support for small farmers and adaptation. Only a fraction of USD 434 million is additional to previous pledges, but it was an important signal to tackle the agriculture underfunded space of climate action. And finally, COP27 saw the pledge of an additional $400M to be managed by the recently installed Forest, People, Climate (FPC), a collaborative of 13 philanthropic donors and civil society organisations seeking to halt and reverse tropical deforestation while delivering just, sustainable development. This effort shows how much the long journey back to the 2018 Global Climate Action Summit Pledge is getting traction.

In the middle of COP27, we had the achievement of reaching the milestone of 600 signatories of the Philanthropy for Climate movement, the vast majority of them non-climate funders willing to engage in climate action. We also had the launch by the UNFCCC of its Philanthropy Leadership Platform. There were several other philanthropy stories and events at COP27 that can’t be covered in this short piece. All these movements together show a clear momentum of philanthropic engagement in the climate space. We need much more coordination and strategic approaches that also enable more participation of Global South philanthropies in this space. Who wants to join me and co-develop an ambitious philanthropic goal for COP28?

Alice Amorim is the #PhilanthropyforClimate Lead at WINGS.

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