Philanthropy Trends: Collaboration, Climate, and Clean Energy in Agriculture

In the face of the escalating climate crisis, there’s been a clear shift in the focus of global philanthropy. In 2023 alone, we have seen major funders channel unprecedented resources and efforts to mitigate emissions and protect the planet. The shift comes as funders recognize not only the urgency of issues they are tackling, but also consider how incorporating solutions such as clean energy, emissions reduction, and climate adaptation into their strategies can be particularly beneficial to their relevance and brand.

One of the most prominent trends has been collaboration. Perhaps to maximize resources and reduce redundancies, Foundations have begun to increase their engagement and partnership with other philanthropic organizations and entities—both public and private—through joint commitments, initiatives, and announcements. This effort is evident in the recent Call to Action released by ClimateWorks, calling out all philanthropic entities across the board to join a coalition of funders committed to joint learning, coordination, and investment to strengthen resilience and reduce climate vulnerability through increased support for climate adaptation. Partnerships such as Acumen and Green Climate Fund’s Hardest-to-Reach initiative and collaborations between GEAPP, the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, and the Asian Development Bank showcase a unified effort to activate clean energy markets and support early-stage renewable energy projects. Powerful collaborations like these will serve to bolster the impact of efforts to address complex, interconnected issues of energy and climate more effectively.

Climate-focused foundations have not only doubled down their efforts and prioritized partnership, but one issue emerged as paramount in 2023, and is sure to continue to pick up support in 2024: the role of energy and climate in the global agri-food system. From Bezos Earth Fund’s announcement to allocate $57 Million for the Future of Food to Acumen’s $58 Million Impact Fund to Drive Climate Adaptation for Smallholder Farmers, together with contributions from the Green Climate Fund, FMO, the Soros Economic Development Fund, IKEA Foundation, and others, highlighting the growing importance of agriculture and food systems in the context of climate change and sustainability.

Announcements and commitments to the agri-food sector reached their apex leading up to COP28, which saw at least $2.1 billion in pledges from foundations and other funders. This includes a joint call issued by a coalition of foundations—including the IKEA Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, and the Global Alliance for the Future of Food—for increased food systems funding (over $200B to be exact) as part of a broader push to center conversations about fossil fuel use in agriculture at COP28. Additionally, the African Climate Foundation established the African Food Systems Transformation Collective to support the role of philanthropy in improving Africa’s food systems’ sustainability.

One of the most groundbreaking commitments for energy, agriculture, and climate this year has been the landmark declaration, signed by more than 134 countries, pledging to integrate food and agriculture into their climate plans. The $200-million declaration by the UAE and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation commits to “expedite the integration of agriculture and food systems into our climate action and, simultaneously, to mainstream climate action across our policy agendas and actions related to agriculture and food systems” by COP 30 in Brazil. 

Despite these commendable initiatives, a stark reality persists. ClimateWorks Foundation revealed in their annual climate funding trends report that foundation funding to mitigate climate change in Africa still represents just 6% of foundation funding for climate in 2022. In addition, the $700m pledged by wealthy countries responsible for the climate emergency at COP28—dubbed the loss and damage fund—covers less than 0.2% needed to make up for the irreversible economic and non-economic losses developing countries are facing from global heating every year.

What’s ahead? Still, we’re seeing a growing recognition of the importance of community-led solutions and a growing focus on flexible funding models for grantees to achieve greater autonomy in how they use their resources. With more funders committing substantial resources and forming collaborative alliances, we are optimistic that major foundations will continue to explore innovative ways to better meet the evolving needs of their partners, communities, and planet in 2024.

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