Climate and environmental philanthropy surges, AEGN report finds

Philanthropy Australia Fri, 1 Mar 2024 Estimated reading times: 4 minutes

Australian philanthropy directed to the climate and environment has increased at 10 times the rate of overall philanthropy, according to a new report from the Australian Environmental Grantmakers Network (AEGN). Giving to charities working on climate and environment programs grew 82% in the three years to 2021. We take a look at the key findings from the Environment and Climate Change Giving Trends 2024.

The report shows that Australian donations and bequests to charities working on climate and environment grew from $148 million in 2018 to $270 million in 2021 – 82%.

Giving to climate and environment via structured philanthropy – represented by private ancillary funds (PAF) and public ancillary funds (PuAF) – has increased at 10 times the rate of overall giving; PuAF giving has soared from $1.2 million in 2018 to $33 million in 2021.

AEGN CEO, Amanda Martin OAM, said the findings show a pivotal shift towards greater climate and environmental philanthropy, both locally and globally. “It’s likely the Australian statistics were significantly impacted by the to the 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires, both in terms of an outpouring of immediate assistance but also the way in which they sparked people’s awareness of the climate and biodiversity crises more broadly.

“While structured philanthropy directed to climate and environment now represents 5% of broader giving, there is a need for this to continue to grow to match the scale of the challenges faced by our natural world. This is the critical decade for action, and we need all hands on deck,” said Amanda.

The report shows a promising development, given the scale of the climate challenges, however there are signs globally that funding growth is plateauing despite the quantum of philanthropy directed toward climate and environment remaining small compared to other funding areas.

Other findings from the report include:

•             Global foundation giving to climate change mitigation has tripled in recent years, growing from US$900 million in 2015 to more than US$3 billion in 2021, before plateauing from 2021 to 2022.

•             Australia’s 50 biggest givers have topped $1 billion in donations for the first time, with more than one-third of this list giving to climate and environment as one of their main causes.

•             Corporate giving has also increased in recent years, with some of the largest corporate givers increasing their charitable donations by more than 40% in 2022.

•             While Australian PAF and PuAF giving to climate and environment now represents 5% of broader giving (up from 2.1%), there is a need to continue strengthening climate and environmental philanthropy in this critical decade for action.

The report highlights that current reporting formats and timeliness in relation to environment and climate funding in Australia fall short when compared to countries with well-developed philanthropic sectors like the UK, US and Canada. Having a clear and reliable understanding of the sector is imperative to enable us to identify and better align philanthropic efforts with needs on the ground so that we can maximise the outcomes of climate and environmental giving.

Key areas are also identified as needing more focus. Globally, around half of the 5% of private philanthropy for the environmental and climate went to biodiversity conservation. However, while the ocean covers around 70% of the planet, its protection receives less than 1% of global philanthropic funding. Annual philanthropic funding for marine area conservation has more than doubled, from less than US$50 million in 2010 to US$122 million in 2022. But it is estimated that between $US9 billion and US$12 billion is needed per year to protect 30% of the ocean by 2030 in line with global targets.

“While we are glad to see that giving to the climate and environment is becoming a key focus of granting for many philanthropists, we hope that Australia can buck the global trend and keep increasing the scale of this funding.

“We have plenty of first-hand experience in this country of the devastating impact that climate change is having on our communities. Mitigating against these outcomes has so many knock-on effects for many of the other areas that philanthropy funds, such as disaster recovery, housing and health, that continuing the momentum we are finally seeing in this area is vital,” said Amanda.

Read the full report online.