Jarnail Singh is the deputy director, India, at John D and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation, where he co-manages the India portfolio of the foundation’s grantmaking. As a development practitioner, he is deeply interested in the intersection of the climate crisis with social equity and behavioural communications. During his time at TERI and the Climate Group, Jarnail worked in the fields of energy transition, access to clean energy, and business-led climate action. He was also named a Feldman Fellow at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University.

In this interview with IDR, Jarnail sheds light on philanthropic giving in India in the context of the climate crisis. He speaks about how funders can play a crucial role in developing more equitable climate solutions, creating space for diverse voices and experiences, and fostering partnerships and collaborations to strengthen the climate action ecosystem in the country.

How has climate change philanthropy evolved in India?
Based on my recent experience in philanthropy with the MacArthur Foundation, I have witnessed two approaches to climate action in India. Historically, it has been the ‘climate first’ approach, wherein organisations prioritise emissions reductions first and try to fit the Indian context into the larger climate change mitigation story. We could also call it a ‘climate story, India grammar’ approach. More recently, this has evolved into what I can call the ‘India story, climate grammar’ approach, where our partners prioritise India and its people’s sustainable development through a climate lens. The focus is on looking at climate change with the contextual understanding of where India is, and planning interventions for climate action accordingly.

To be more specific, if we were to look at the history of climate giving in India, philanthropic thinking predominantly revolved around the wedges approach. The focus was on classifying all the gigatons that exist in the atmosphere in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, identifying the largest opportunities in terms of emission reductions, and devising a plan to target those sectors with key stakeholders.

Read the full article about climate philanthropy by Shreya Adhikari and Smarinita Shetty at India Development Review.