How philanthropy can support a just and sustainable recovery from Covid-19

Blog Post Global IntelligenceJustice & Equity
Published January 25, 2021

Surabi Menon

VP, Global Intelligence

Anthony Yazaki

Senior Writer & Storyteller

The Covid-19 pandemic, its economic impacts, and demonstrations for social and racial justice were key inflection points around the globe in 2020.

At the same time, we continued to see growing impacts from climate change throughout the year — from fires, heat waves, droughts, and poor air quality, to impacts on fresh-water resources, food, migration, and national security. While racial and social justice and climate change may have once seemed like disparate issues, the pandemic clearly demonstrated that many of the global issues we face are interconnected, and how a shock to one vulnerable piece of our global system can have far-reaching impacts in other areas of our lives. Now, as the world begins to recover from Covid-19, we face a crucial moment to step up climate action, in order to facilitate a smooth economic recovery today, and to avoid incurring crippling costs later on from a rapidly warming climate.

With governments around the world committing over $13 trillion to boost the economic recovery, it is imperative that this spending be directed not just to climate-friendly initiatives, but to initiatives that also promote equity and justice for the most vulnerable among us. Only by viewing climate change mitigation through this lens of equity and justice can we truly achieve a sustainable economic recovery that doesn’t simply return us to the status quo before the pandemic, but builds resilience to climate change and a brighter future for all people. Philanthropy has an important role to play in funding and promoting such initiatives, demonstrating what’s possible when people work in partnership and amplifying the voices of those most impacted by the crises we face.

In a new ClimateWorks Global Intelligence brief, “Achieving a just and sustainable economic recovery,” written with partners from across the globe, we highlight eight case studies from Brazil, India, South Africa, the U.S., and globally that demonstrate how philanthropic climate change mitigation initiatives can also help to promote justice and equity. We invite you to read the full brief for more details on these initiatives, but here we have distilled some key steps derived from those case studies that funders should consider as they establish climate strategies for the post-pandemic period.

1. Empower diverse and powerful coalitions in frontline communities to come together to advocate for solutions that empower their future, and make sure their voices are amplified in key decision venues. Only by working shoulder-to-shoulder with vulnerable communities can we achieve effective and durable solutions that directly address their crucial needs in both the short and long term.

2. Be flexible and nimble so that rapid collaborations and common funds can be pooled to take advantage of disruptions. For example, disruptions to public transit from Covid-19 hurt low-income, essential service workers. In response, solutions centered on equity for mobility can be quickly adopted if prioritized. Similarly, to support economic recovery in manufacturing that has been disrupted by Covid-19’s impact on supply chains, labor forces, etc., a clean and self-reliant recovery can be created by linking sustainable manufacturing solutions with training and education options to build the required skills.

3. Promote climate-friendly land use by exploring the creation of public-private trust funds with common funding and reporting, in order to achieve transformative targets, restore degraded lands, and ensure that forests are preserved.

4. Responsibly and sustainably repurporse coal power plants by creating new investment models and supporting local leadership, taking into account economic impacts on the local community and the environment in impoverished areas.

5. Ensure that Indigenous lands are sustainably managed by channeling funds directly to Indigenous peoples and local communities working to drive local solutions that build resilience from the ground up.

6. Reduce inequality in access to affordable, energy-efficient, and resilient housing by lending a voice, creating financing options, and supporting land tenure for marginalized people living in urban slums. This same applies for low-income housing in cities and states where national resources are often not spent.

7. Support strong rural infrastructure by leveraging local governments and organizations to map out effective and sustainable interventions for skill development, access to affordable finance, local entrepreneurship, innovations, and conducive policies and regulations.

While philanthropy alone cannot implement these steps at the scale required, it is an important actor alongside civil society, governments, state and local officials, the private sector, and the general public. By establishing new coalitions and partnerships that advance these goals and principles, philanthropy can play an outsized role in driving a just, equitable, and sustainable economic recovery.

Learn more

To learn more about how to support a climate-friendly economic recovery, contact us or read the full report, “Achieving a just and sustainable economic recovery.”