COP26, rightly critiqued for its exclusionary approach, will shape how governments respond to the climate crisis. It is also as an organising moment for civil society, and a chance for funders to make public commitments in solidarity with civil society and the climate movement. Ahead of the start of this week, it seems pertinent to take a critical look at the state of climate philanthropy today.

In response to the urgency of the climate crisis, and its impacts on high-priority philanthropic issues from inequality to health, we have seen encouraging growth in interest and funding flows from private philanthropy to a variety of climate solutions. Climate philanthropy as a field is emerging and changing all the time in response to new actors with big commitments entering the space – see the recent $10 billion pledge from the Bezos Earth Fund, $3.5 billion from Laurene Powell Jobs, or $1 billion from Hansjörg Wyss. As a sector, committed to collaborating and aligning strategies to maximise our investments, this poses new opportunities and also challenges.

While the philanthropic response to the climate crisis is growing, recent mapping shows that grants specifically directed towards climate change mitigation still represent less than 2 percent of total European foundation giving. In the US, climate funding in 2020 totalled 0.5% of total philanthropic spending. By any measure, this seems inadequate to tackle the many interconnected problems that climate change poses for societies everywhere. We also need to understand better where these funds are going, and where the gaps are – the recent call at the EDGE Funders Alliance conference to ‘occupy climate philanthropy’ to ensure a greater focus on climate justice (centering of alternative voices and perspectives) and more spaces for funder/movement organising points to a desire to avoid creating a ‘climate funding silo’; rather, climate philanthropy needs a ‘big tent’ approach in which we all understand the impacts of climate change on our giving priorities, and strategize and collaborate accordingly.

Read the full article about climate funding by Eva Rehse and Florence Miller at Alliance Magazine.