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Climate Change and Philanthropy

December 14, 2009

As the second week of the 15th annual UN climate change conference gets under way in Copenhagen, representatives of the nearly two hundred nations in attendance have produced more "posturing than progress," reports the New York Times. Maybe so, but a new research advisory from the Foundation Center reveals that philanthropic organizations in the U.S. have stepped up in a big way over the last eight years to address the issue. According to Climate Change: The U.S. Foundation Response (4 pages, PDF), foundation funding to address issues related to global warming jumped from less than $100 million in 2000 to nearly $900 million in 2008.

In the advisory, Steven Lawrence, the center's director of research, explains that "while philanthropic efforts to address global warming have been growing, a small number of very large funders still account for most of the support....In fact, the top 25 climate change grantmakers in 2008 provided more than 90 percent of the funding."


That's a lot of money, but will foundations be able to support the issue at that level given the uncertain economy? It's too early to say, writes Lawrence:

[T]he recent economic crisis has markedly reduced foundation resources, and the Foundation Center predicts that the impact of the downturn will lead to continued reductions in overall foundation funding through at least 2010.

Though the impact of the expected reductions on climate change grantmaking is uncertain, throughout 2009 foundations have continued to announce new grants focused on the climate crisis, suggesting that the foundation community will remain committed to addressing the causes and impact of global warming....

You can download the entire advisory here. And for more information about philanthropy's response to climate change, check out this presentation produced by the center for the Global Philanthropy Forum's 8th annual conference last April.

-- Regina Mahone

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