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Growing climate philanthropy

Environment Programme / Blog

Photo: © Anne Henshaw / Oak Foundation

Globally, climate philanthropy has been punching way above its weight for a while now. Taking bigger risks, expanding geographic frontiers and taking on some of the hardest battles of our times in fighting powerful lobbies and entrenched views. However, in the larger schemes of things, climate philanthropy is less than two per cent of overall philanthropic giving.

For an issue as grave as the global climate crisis we are living in, which threatens nearly all the development gains we have made in the past, there needs to be much more philanthropic action targeted at climate issues. As a result, the world’s leading climate philanthropies are making efforts to work with other philanthropies in critical areas such as health, biodiversity and oceans.

The aim is to reduce the brunt of climate change on the most vulnerable communities and eliminate the most harmful drivers of climate change. And where has this work been more important and relevant than in India, a country that has demonstrated great national ambition in tackling climate change, despite the very real domestic barriers of widespread poverty and climate risks? Philanthropy has an important role to play in India: to get together and create a demand for climate-friendly policies, help communities adapt to impacts of climate change and encourage innovation in the field of reducing energy demand and moving to cleaner renewable sources of energy.

In 2016, we started discussions with three leading Indian philanthropies – Tata trusts, Azim Premji Philanthropic Initiatives and Nilekani Philanthropies, in trying to build a case for broader collaboration between foreign climate philanthropy working in India and local philanthropies. There was already considerable overlap in the sectors we all worked in individually. In the past year, together with the three Indian philanthropies mentioned above, our efforts to create a framework for philanthropic collaboration on climate in India have been very successful. There has been massive support from many Indian philanthropies in devising a climate and development agenda that is relevant to the country, rooted in its realities and responding to its needs in a way that foreign philanthropic organisations can not do on their own.

We are working together with our partners and expert advisers to help this newly emerging climate philanthropy collaborative to invest in long term programmes that support the most critical pathways to reduce the impacts and drivers of climate change for India. We hope that this collaboration will encourage and lead the way for other such collaborations around the world, not just in the philanthropic field but more widely too.

Written by Sahba Chauhan, climate change sub-Programme officer, Environment Programme