June 5, 2024

Let’s Talk About Climate Philanthropy This World Environment Day

Author Natalie Pinon, Senior Director of Development

The 5th of June marked the 51st World Environment Day, an annual event bringing together millions of people from 150 countries across the globe and engaging them in the effort to protect and restore the Earth.

This year’s World Environment Day was focused on land restoration, desertification, and drought resilience under the slogan “Our land. Our future. We are #GenerationRestoration”. This theme highlights the desperate need for collective action on the climate crisis not only to mitigate its challenges but to go even further and build a better future.

Food insecurity, water scarcity and extreme weather events, exacerbated by climate change, have reached severe levels in several regions of the world, leaving 3.6 billion people highly susceptible to climate change.

Given the enormous scale of the climate crisis and its widespread impact, clearly philanthropy cannot address these challenges alone, but it is a vital source of support.

Philanthropy offers a more agile approach to funding climate solutions. It can drive catalytic change by allowing us to explore new areas and solutions to the climate crisis in a way that restricted public funding and private sector investment cannot.

Philanthropists like Jeff Bezos with his $10bn Bezos Earth Fund, and Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, who recently gave away his $3bn company and its future profits to fight the climate crisis, are just two examples of how impactful climate philanthropy can be. In the UK, we have also seen philanthropists rise to meet this challenge with British philanthropist Sir Chris Hohn giving £117m to climate-related causes in 2022 alone.

Despite significant donations like these and an increase in both climate change awareness and related giving towards environmental causes over the last two decades, the reality is that still only a very small proportion of global philanthropy is directed towards the environment.

In 2023, UK donors gave a total of £13.9 billion, making it our nation’s most generous year to date—and yet only 6% of those donations went to conservation and the environment. The UK actually fares well in comparison to the global average, where total giving to climate change mitigation represented less than 2% of global philanthropic donations.

But with the next generation of donors coming through, this is likely to change.

Young people are increasingly engaged with climate issues and are galvanising action in the UK and the globe. Although they feel they are not the generation responsible for climate change, many of the next generation recognise that time is running out to prevent its most devastating effects and are spearheading the transition to a more sustainable world.

They are not alone. In fact, 69% of people are willing to give away 1% of their household income each month to fight global warming—but they often don’t know where to donate. If we can leverage this widespread appetite for climate action and channel greater philanthropic support to environmental causes, we can help bring about meaningful change on a global scale.

So, as we celebrate World Environment Day, let’s consider the ways that philanthropic giving can complement private and public sector funding to drive forward solutions on climate change.

About the Author

Natalie Pinon is Senior Director of Development at NPT UK. She has over 15 years of experience working with philanthropists and impact investors to manage their giving.