The Decade of Delivery: is Philanthropy ready?

By Sonia Medina, Children’s Investment Fund Foundation

The new year celebrations were muted, most of the world is still confined to their houses waiting for the arrival of the vaccination. But January 1st, 2021 marked the start of a new year and a decade, in which our work on climate change must be anything but muted.

The UN dubbed decade of delivery has begun. We must meet the climate emergency by halving global carbon emissions to keep open a reasonable chance of keeping temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees.

2020 was set to be a ‘super year’ for the climate, conservation and development movements as climate, SDG, and biodiversity agendas all came to the fore.  But the COVID-19 emergency sent shockwaves throughout the world. Summits were postponed, deadlines were missed, and governments became consumed by the public health crisis and economic shutdown.

As the world comes back together with an incredibly crowded calendar (and zoom calls galore), 2021 is shaping up to be a critical year for international climate politics. COP26 will be a defining moment for the Paris Agreement; the US will re-engage; and the UK and Italian COP co-hosts will host the G7 and G20 alike.

The good news is we’re not starting from scratch, despite COVID we saw serious increases in climate actions in 2020. The UK and EU have enhanced their Paris Commitments (55% and 68% cuts on 1990).  China, Japan, and South Korea all have net zero emission targets now, creating some serious pressure on their Pacific neighbour and climate pariah Australia.

But progress is far from assured and whilst COP26 will set the framework and ambition, real world emissions will be largely determined by decisions taken around economic recoveries and short-term climate plans. The UNEP estimated that a green pandemic recovery could cut up to 25% off emissions expected in 2030 prior to Covid-19. To date, this opportunity has largely been missed.

Recovery decisions taken at national, G7, G20 and other fora will have a significant impact on climate politics. UK COP President Alok Sharma said the recovery is “the golden thread of climate action” that must “weave through every international gathering next year”.

COP26 in Glasgow must preserve the integrity of the Paris Agreement and enhance national ambition. It needs to strengthen the voice and influence of vulnerable countries, ensure the delivery of the $100bn climate finance commitment and continue to super-charge non-state actors to generate momentum in the real economy.

In the run up to COP26 there is a need for philanthropy to invest in facilitating great collaboration and strategic alignment so the climate community can respond to shifting priorities, capitalise on new opportunities, and to head off new threats.  Foundations can:

  1. Join the Climate Emergency Collaboration Group (CECG): The CECG was created to enable funders and partners to collectively leverage key international moments to drive a step change in the global response to the climate emergency. This sort of philanthropic coordination hasn’t existed since Paris and it means we’ve not always been able to powerfully and effectively leverage the opportunities for impact that key international moments can offer.  Contact for more information.
  2. Support the testing of a Global Recovery Campaigning Network: CIFF is working with CECG and others to incubate a Global Recovery Network, designed to ramp up the effectiveness of recovery campaigning – which is currently failing to have sufficient political impact in key countries worldwide. The Network has identified three geopolitically important pilot countries (Brazil, Australia, South Africa) where we are confident that enhanced strategic campaigning has the potential to drive green, just recoveries in a way that will stimulate climate action and help neutralise opposition to ambitious outcomes from COP 26.
  3. Build capacity across the Global South: As countries focus on rebuilding their strained economic and social systems, it is essential to frame and develop responses to climate and biodiversity collapse in the context of development, justice and sustainable livelihoods. It is also essential for deep work between global north and global south-led climate finance think tanks and advocacy groups. With COP 27 set to take place in Africa, the newly launched Africa Climate Foundation will be one valuable philanthropic organisation looking at how to leverage the power of an international summit on African soil towards concrete wins on the climate and development agendas.
  4. Support the Climate Champions: Race to Zero was established to accelerate non-state actor responses to the climate emergency and deliver a 10x increase in net zero commitments by COP26. The Climate Champions will continue for subsequent COPs, which provide opportunities to leverage increased non-state action and leadership from new geographies and sectors to ensure that the tent of climate ambition continues to expand.
  5. Support Social Movements: In the last 4 years we’ve seen a surge in social movements. The youth climate movement has opened new political space for leadership. Much of our success in the last few years is down to the energy and drive of these movements. Historically philanthropy has struggled to support such movements, but that is changing and new re-granters like the Urban Movement Innovation Fund can help philanthropy connect to, align and strengthen social movements work.
  6. Invest in climate solutions – Less than 2% of global philanthropic giving is dedicated to climate change and we encourage everyone to do more. Organisations like Active Philanthropy can help funders put a climate lens across their portfolios and the Climate Leadership Initiative provides tailored guidance for philanthropists on high-impact solutions and giving opportunities to solve the climate crisis without charging for its services, fundraising for itself or pooling grant dollars.

So, 2021 can be the year where we sound the starting gun on greater climate action with a resounding bang, and there are some very tangible things that Philanthropy can do. From all of us here at CIFF, we hope you will join us.



Arian Okhovat, Communications F20 |

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