As communities around the world make their case at the COP27 conference in Egypt that climate damage is forcing migration and causing suffering like never before, charities have pooled their resources to donate more than $2 billion to support adaptation projects in climate. Overall, though, the amount of philanthropic funding directed at climate-related projects remains small.
Global climate talks were scheduled to end negotiations on Friday, although many expect they will push past the deadline to reach an agreement.
On the opening day of COP27 last week, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced $1.4 billion to support agricultural projects across Africa and South Asia, which it said will help small farmers adapt to climate change. The pledge was $434 million more than originally planned through 2025, funding projects including research to increase seed and livestock productivity and a partnership that would provide weather information to farmers in East Africa through text messages.
The Gates Foundation pledged another $7 billion over four years to go to its work on agriculture, health and gender equality in Africa while Bill Gates was visiting Kenya.
Gates warned on Thursday, at an event with students at the University of Nairobi, that aid or investment from governments to finance climate adaptation and mitigation was limited and could be reduced due to the war in Ukraine and the cost of energy .
“A lot of these health and climate solutions are going to have to be very frugal because even though I’m the biggest advocate and I’m constantly meeting rich people and politicians that they should be doing even more — we’re not going to see a huge increase in these amounts,” Gates said, adding, “Innovation and spending the aid resources that are there, as well as increasing domestic resources, is going to be really, really necessary.”
Philanthropic giving to support projects trying to prevent the worst effects of climate change accounted for less than 2% of all estimated charitable giving in 2021, although it grew faster than other categories, according to a ClimateWorks Foundation report.
In addition to financial pledges, charities facilitated conversations at booths and side events, said Alice Amorim, project coordinator, Global Philanthropy for Climate Movement. Her organization seeks to engage philanthropies to act on climate issues and help them find entry points, with around 600 foundations from around the world signed up to date.
“It’s not necessarily about the size of the money’s promises, but the catalytic role it can play,” such as providing seed money or enabling projects that companies or governments aren’t willing to support, he said. For example, some institutions help shape agreements that countries such as South Africa and Indonesia strike with lenders and other nations to increase their use of renewable energy.
Amorim also pointed to how philanthropic partnerships are growing year-on-year with the Forests, People, Climate partnership raising another $400 million. The partnership is dedicated to reversing tropical deforestation in part by channeling funds to grassroots organizations.
A group of foundations, including Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Sequoia Climate Foundation, have jointly pledged $500 million to support a just energy transition in low- and middle-income countries, although each organization will decide where to allocate its portion of the funds.
“We recognize that the international community continues to fall unacceptably short on its promises of financial support to address climate change and its impacts,” Christie Ulman, President of the Sequoia Climate Foundation, said in a statement. “While this investment cannot and is not intended to compensate for this, we are working to support countries in meeting the challenges and commitment to a clean energy transition.”
The Ikea Foundation has promoted research it says will guide its $620 million (€600 million) in donations, part of a pledge made at last year’s climate summit in Glasgow to give $1.03 billion (€1 billion) in five years in climate change programs.
The Bezos Earth Fund revealed it will invest $50 million to restore degraded landscapes in two places: along the Rusizi River that runs between the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Burundi, and in the Great Rift Valley in Kenya. That sum is part of the $3 billion that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos first announced in Glasgow that the fund would spend on conserving and restoring land and transforming food systems.
The fund along with the Rockefeller Foundation and the US State Department also launched a new initiative to try to connect private capital with countries seeking to phase out coal use through carbon credits. They hope to work with countries that have already made commitments to the energy transition, such as South Africa and Indonesia.
“What we keep hearing from these countries is, you know, where is the help going to come from? Where is the concession capital? Where will the grant-like capital come from?’ Dr. Joe Curtin, director of the Rockefeller Foundation’s climate and energy group.
Retiring coal plants, which he said would likely be the focus of the mechanism, would require some investment that does not require a return, he said.
The project, announced by US climate envoy John Kerry last week, has met with resistance from some governments and civil society groups who said further carbon credit schemes have the potential to allow polluters to keep polluting. Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley has proposed another initiative to unlock funding to support energy transitions and other climate adaptation measures by changing the terms on which major international development banks offer loans.
The Rockefeller Foundation also announced $11 million in grants to support agricultural projects that promote soil health, water quality and biodiversity — especially those based on indigenous knowledge as part of a transition away from fertilizer-based, industrial agriculture. based on fossil fuels that produce large amounts of greenhouse gases.
“This represents a real shift and a message that we need to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels in our food system,” said Roy Steiner, senior vice president for the foundation’s food initiative. The foundation announced $105 million in funding for health and sustainable food systems in March, and these grants are part of that commitment.
A project launched by the Ikea Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Bezos Earth Fund at last year’s COP, the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet also signed an agreement with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to finance $1 billion in energy transition projects.
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