Climate change mitigation philanthropy is building momentum, but there’s a long way to go

Blog Post Global Intelligence
Published October 7, 2021

Surabi Menon

VP, Global Intelligence

Helene Desanlis

Director, Climate Philanthropy, Global Intelligence

2021 has so far been an unprecedented year for climate-related philanthropy, with the influx of multiple new billion-dollar-scale commitments. This upward trend appears to be a continuation from 2020, which saw climate change mitigation philanthropy grow by 14% compared to 2019, outpacing the 3% growth of overall global philanthropic giving. 

The increased focus on social justice movements last year, and the growing understanding that equity and justice issues are deeply intertwined with climate change mitigation, also attracted more funding than has traditionally gone to equity and justice issues, with almost $500 million committed to racial justice by U.S. foundations in 2020. While these are encouraging developments, the grim news is that climate change mitigation still accounts for less than 2% of overall philanthropic giving, not nearly enough to address the rapidly growing intensity of the climate crisis. For all of the progress that’s been made, there’s still a long way to go. It’s crucial for philanthropy to step up now because money spent today on mitigating climate change and driving emissions to zero is far more productive than money spent later on to deal with the massive impacts of extreme climate events that used to happen once in a century but are now becoming more commonplace. 

In our latest report, “Funding trends 2021: Climate change mitigation philanthropy,” we analyze data on philanthropic giving from foundations and individuals to climate change mitigation between 2015-2020, to help funders understand where funding is most needed, where it is going, how a funder’s strategies map to existing resources, what strategies other institutions may already be funding, emerging partnerships opportunities, and more. 

The report captures broader trends that have influenced climate philanthropy in 2020, including the arrival of new large-scale donors and collaborative commitments as well as the growing emphasis on equity. To build greater accountability, we also track progress on philanthropic pledges made at the Global Climate Action Summit in 2018 and then updated in 2020. The good news is that philanthropy is so far on track to exceed those pledges by over 30%. 

Philanthropy has both catalyzed and supported some of the biggest climate wins over the past decade that have helped bend the global temperature trajectory downward. Philanthropy must keep raising ambition, taking risks and accelerating climate progress, and continue creating inclusive ecosystems of change that bring together the public, private, and civil society sectors. Collaborative, investment-ready programs operating at scale already exist and are poised for immediate growth and impact. There are more ways than ever before for new and existing donors to join the cause or scale up their work.

The climate crisis requires your attention now.

Learn more

To learn more about key 2020 trends in climate change mitigation philanthropy, read “Funding trends 2021: Climate change mitigation philanthropy” or contact us.