How climate philanthropy can solve its innovation challenge

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june 4, 2024

“With the science showing that we don’t have much time left to shift course on climate change, philanthropy has an outsized opportunity to change the course of history,” Savanna Ferguson, executive director of Climate Breakthrough, and Nancy Lindborg, President and CEO of The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, write for the global development and sustainability platform Devex.

In 2016, Packard Foundation’s visionary leadership helped launch Climate Breakthrough as a unique model of how climate philanthropy can overcome its innovation challenge to catalyze more bold climate solutions.

Below are excerpts from the commentary.

Before the Paris Agreement in 2015, the projected global temperature increase was expected to be about 3.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels but today it has been reduced to about 2.7 C. But that is nowhere near the progress needed and time is running out.

While there is plenty of money going into tech innovations such as renewables, carbon capture and storage, and electric modes of transport, the greatest barriers to climate mitigation nowadays are political, cultural, and economic. This is where philanthropic funding can meet that demand. But first, philanthropy must address its innovation challenge.

Our credibility as funders must be defined not by the certainty of our success but by the scale of our ambition.

Those of us in philanthropy are increasingly acknowledging the need to prioritize climate in our grantmaking. Traditional strategic philanthropy will continue to be important, but bold climate action deserves bold philanthropy.

Here are four considerations where we have seen impact.

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