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New report finds still less than 2% of global philanthropic giving was dedicated to climate change mitigation in 2020

New donors and commitments drove momentum in climate philanthropy leading to a 14% increase in philanthropic giving for climate change mitigation while overall philanthropic giving grew at 3%

SAN FRANCISCO – October 7, 2021 – ClimateWorks Foundation, a leading global platform for climate philanthropy, today published the ClimateWorks Global Intelligence report, Funding Trends 2021: Climate change mitigation philanthropy, an annual assessment of data on foundation and individual funding for climate change mitigation. The report found that despite a 14% increase in philanthropic giving for climate change mitigation, it still represented less than 2% of total global philanthropic giving in 2020.

The Funding Trends report offers insight into how philanthropic funds for climate change mitigation are being deployed across sectors and geographies. It identifies broader trends that influenced climate philanthropy in 2020, including the arrival of significant donors and collaborative commitments, and the growing emphasis on equity. The report also analyzes the gap between current funding levels and what is needed to support effective and equitable climate action.

 “The climate emergency isn’t slowing down. While we saw positive trends across climate change mitigation philanthropy in 2020, greater and more sustained levels of giving are needed to match the massive scale of the challenge,” said Surabi Menon, vice president of Global Intelligence, ClimateWorks Foundation. “There is no shortage of climate solutions in which to invest, and the grantee field is better positioned than ever to help deploy resources toward climate action at the speed and scale that is needed to address the climate crisis.”

The ClimateWorks Global Intelligence report is designed to increase awareness of the overall landscape of philanthropic giving to climate change mitigation to support targeted philanthropic opportunities. The research shines a light on where funding is most needed, where it is going, how funders’ strategies map to existing resources, the strategies other institutions may already be funding, emerging partnerships opportunities, and more. First published in 2020, the Funding Trends report has been updated to cover six years of funding data from 2015-2020. 

“We are at a pivotal juncture in the battle to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, making this a galvanizing moment for climate philanthropy. It’s encouraging to see funders close the gap needed to win on climate, and I’m excited to see so many stepping up to help solve the great challenge of our time,” said Larry Kramer, president of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

Key findings from the report include:

  • Philanthropic giving to climate change mitigation increased at a faster rate (14%) between 2019-2020 than overall philanthropic giving (3%). In 2020, out of an estimated $750 billion in total philanthropic giving globally, $6 billion to $10 billion was focused on climate change mitigation. In 2019, out of an estimated $730 billion in total philanthropic giving worldwide, roughly $5 billion to $9 billion was dedicated to climate change mitigation.
  • Despite still representing a small proportion of overall global philanthropy, foundation funding for climate change mitigation has grown steadily in recent years, from nearly $900 million in 2015 to at least $1.9 billion in 2020, among leading foundations with climate-focused programs.
  • 2020 saw the arrival of significant donors and collaborative commitments. Even with global events like the Covid-19 pandemic dampening economic growth in the last year, commitments from new organizations like the Bezos Earth Fund, have helped create new momentum in philanthropic giving to climate solutions poised for rapid growth.
  • Nearly $500 million was committed to racial justice by U.S. foundations in 2020. This is still far below what is needed for this work in the U.S. and globally as it is becoming clearer than ever that climate change mitigation is an issue of equity and justice, and foundations are increasingly being urged to focus on racial equity.
  • Critical gaps remain between funding levels and what is required in many sectors of the economy. For example, emissions in the transport sector have overtaken power sector emissions. Yet on the funding side, data for 2015-2020 show that the entire transportation sector received less than 4% of all tracked foundation funding for climate change mitigation on average during the period.
  • Philanthropies are on track to exceed $6 billion in major climate pledges. In 2018 and 2020, a set of philanthropies committed to investing at least $6 billion by 2025 to support a climate-safe future. These philanthropies are on track to exceed their commitments and, together, have allocated $7.9 billion during the pledge period.
  • More funders giving at scale provide an early indicator of accelerating climate action in 2021. Substantial new commitments made to further climate progress this year have included the $100 million Carbon Removal X Prize, the IKEA Foundation’s and the Rockefeller Foundation’s $1 billion global platform to fight climate change and energy poverty, Lauren Powell Jobs’ investment in the $3.5 billion climate-action group, the Waverley Street Foundation, and the $5 billion pledged by nine foundations to nature conservation. 

Download the report here.

About ClimateWorks Foundation

ClimateWorks Foundation is a global platform for philanthropy to innovate and accelerate climate solutions that scale. We deliver global programs and services that equip philanthropy with the knowledge, networks, and solutions to drive climate progress. Since 2008, ClimateWorks has granted over $1 billion to more than 500 grantees in over 40 countries.

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Published October 7, 2021

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Jennifer Rigney,