Foundation spending on climate change

Alliance magazine

For US and UK foundations, climate philanthropy is around 2% of overall foundation spending.

Climate change is arguably the most serious, systemic and far-reaching issue we face as the human race. How much are foundations spending to address it? Looking at data from the US, the UK and Europe, it seems that somewhere between 0.8 per cent and 2.2 per cent of total foundation spending is directly addressing climate change.

In the US
According to the Foundation Center, climate change-related grants by US foundations account for 0.8 per cent of all foundation spending.[1] When three separate subcategories – ‘Climate and atmosphere’, ‘Energy’ and ‘Transportation’ – are incorporated into an overall ‘Energy and climate’ category, the figure for total spending by US foundations on climate change rises to 1.82 per cent.

Data gathered by the US-based Environmental Grantmakers Association (EGA) shows a big emphasis on advocacy and policy among climate grantmakers.[2] In 2013, 55 per cent of funding for ‘Energy and climate’ used ‘Advocacy/Organizing/Movement building’ or ‘Public policy’ as the strategy, compared to 33 per cent across all issue groups.

In the UK
According to the Environmental Funders Network (EFN), UK trusts and foundations direct between 0.93 per cent and 2.2 per cent of their giving to address climate change.[3]

Climate philanthropy as a proportion of environmental spending
Foundation spending on climate change accounts for around a quarter of overall environmental grantmaking. A European Foundation Centre survey of 2,913 grants made in 2014 by 75 European foundations (including some UK foundations) found that 19.8 per cent of environmental spending went to ‘Energy and climate’.[4]

In the US climate change accounts for just 12.4 per cent of all environmental spending – though this figure rises to over 28 per cent using the broader ‘Energy and climate’ criteria. A similar figure is found in the UK, with climate-related grants amounting to 25 per cent of environmental giving.

In the US, giving to the environment is estimated at 6.43 per cent of total foundation giving. The corresponding figure for the UK is between 3 per cent and 6 per cent.

Totals for climate-related spending[5]
US foundations (FC 1000): $195,180,214
UK foundations: £26,897,552
European foundations surveyed: €94,797,000


  1. ^ These figures are based on all grants of $10,000 or more awarded by the FC 1000 – a sample of 1,000 of the largest US foundations – in 2013.
  2. ^ See
  3. ^ Based on the latest figures from EFN (2011-12).
  4. ^ Figures are from 2014. To see the whole study, visit
  5. ^ Figures are for 2013, 2011-12 and 2014, respectively.

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