Philanthropic grants grow to meet environmental threats – but not fast enough

Posted on 06 Mar 2024

By Matthew Schulz, journalist, SmartyGrants

Australia From Space Adobe Stock 248801449
Funding to climate and environmental causes has grown quickly, but is still just 2% of philanthropic spending globally.

Philanthropic funding for environmental and climate change causes is increasingly rapidly, but not fast enough to mitigate the world’s biodiversity crisis, according to Australia’s top environmental grantmakers.

In a report released late last month, the Australian Environmental Grantmakers Network (AEGN) found there had been a national and global spike in philanthropic giving to environmental causes, especially from private and public ancillary funds.

AEGN report
Tap to read the full AEGN report.

According to the report, Environment and Climate Change Giving Trends 2024, global funding for climate change mitigation is growing three times as fast as other philanthropic spending. Funding tripled in the six years to 2021 to $US3 billion. Even so, the spending comprises just 2% of all philanthropic giving globally.

In Australia, AEGN’s 200-plus members gave over $138 million to climate and environmental causes in FY 2021–22, and almost half had increased their giving that year and the one before. As a result, the network believes its goal of giving $2.5 billion by 2030 is “within reach”. However, it warns that funding for environmental goals is plateauing globally and says this trend could soon be reflected here.

The AEGN said its analysis revealed “a remarkable surge” in spending by public ancillary funds, which can collect and distribute donations from individuals, companies and other charities. Public ancillary fund (PAF) giving to climate and environmental causes leapt 744% from $4 million in 2020 to $33 million in 2021.

At the same time, private ancillary funds (PAFs) – usually established by individuals, families or corporates to structure their giving – rose to $26 million, up from $11 million the previous year.

The spike in spending was partly a result of recovery efforts following the 2019–20 Black Summer bushfires, but the AEGN believes the emergency generated a tail of further spending on environmental causes. Despite the increases in PUF and PAF spending on climate and environment, these causes still account for only 5% of all spending by both types of funds combined.

Overall, the report claimed the findings “show a pivotal shift towards greater climate and environmental giving in recent years, prompted by a global awakening to the urgency of the climate and biodiversity crises”.

But it called on philanthropists to “catalyse” further funding to match the urgency of the crisis, and noted a need to engage First Nations groups and more smaller organisations. Tracking this spending would require better data, and the true levels of spending could be much higher, the AEGN suggested.

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