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With the effects of climate change becoming starker, climate philanthropy is taking off as never before. New players like the Bezos Earth Fund are making a splash and overall funding is rising each year; a report from the ClimateWorks Foundation estimates climate philanthropy in 2020 at $6-10 billion, an increase of ~14% from 2019. But increasing funds is only part of the battle — money must be used effectively to have a real impact in the fight against climate change.
As donors move into the climate space for the first time, the options can be overwhelming. The climate landscape is exceedingly technical and multifaceted, with myriad possible solutions vying for attention and funding. These range from political movements to technological research to behavior change. Larger donors can navigate this landscape by hiring experienced program officers and participating in donor networks such as those facilitated by the Climate Leadership Initiative. But for smaller foundations and individuals, it can be difficult to find an entry point.
I founded Giving Green, an initiative to help donors find the most impactful, evidence-backed, and cost-effective ways to fight climate change. Based on our research, I wanted to share four guiding principles for budding climate change mitigation philanthropists as they seek to be effective in fighting climate change through giving.
Focus on THE Big Issue
There are lots of important environmental concerns, from conserving natural areas to protecting vulnerable species to avoiding air and water pollution. But there is only one environmental issue that dramatically threatens life as we know it for all species: human-caused global warming.
Target Systems Change
Given that almost every activity we do in the modern world causes emissions, there are tons of small actions individuals or organizations can undertake to fight global warming. A commuter can ride a bike instead of driving; a rancher can manage grazing to sequester carbon in the soil; anyone can plant a tree. And philanthropists can support organizations working on all of these activities.
Maximize Expected Returns
While there are almost innumerable smaller-scale projects to fight climate change and, of course, each organization will have its niche, in general effective philanthropy should be funding solutions that can cause huge decreases in emissions.
Find Neglected Spaces
As more money flows into key parts of the climate fight, certain issue areas can become saturated with funding and battles become harder and harder to win. It’s certainly not a rule set in stone, but in general there are decreasing marginal returns to additional money for many initiatives. Therefore, new donors can have greater impact by using innovative strategies that are different from larger and more established funders.
Read the full article about fighting climate change by Daniel Stein at The Center for Effective Philanthropy.