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As the climate crisis mounts, philanthropy must act to confront the impacts

The world is in uncharted territory. Driven by our addiction to fossil fuels, greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, increasing the global average temperature. Researchers say there’s now a 66% chance we will pass the 1.5º C global warming threshold between now and 2027. Unprecedented weather amplified by climate change is pushing humanity and ecosystems to, and sometimes beyond, the limits of survival. We are already underwater and on fire, with air that is not safe to breathe, water that is not safe to drink, food that is no longer growing in abundance, and nature that is being lost at staggering rates. While all of us are affected, the roughly 3.6 billion people who live in low and lower-middle-income countries are especially vulnerable to climate change’s worst effects. These communities who have contributed the least to climate change are disproportionately affected by it. We must change course.  

In addition to accelerating climate change mitigation work, we now need a step change in our efforts to adapt to the impacts of climate change that are already locked in. As noted in the recent Adaptation Gap Report 2023, “Even if the rise in temperature eventually slows as a result of more ambitious collective climate change mitigation efforts, climate risks will accelerate with every fraction of a degree because of the compounding and cascading nature of climate-related impacts.” Now is the moment to radically step up our efforts to not only scale up mitigation but also adaptation action to minimize the climate impacts that will inevitably remain. 

The Adaptation Gap Report estimates the costs of adaptation in developing countries at US$215 billion per year this decade, yet current public international adaptation finance flows cover only 10% of these costs. We’ve heard the UN Secretary-General’s call to close the adaptation funding gap. We’ve heard Barbados’ Prime Minister Mia Motley call for a reorganization of the global financial system in order to address the impacts of the climate crisis via the Bridgetown Initiative. We’ve heard from the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) who call for strengthened commitments on climate-related disaster recovery as well as demands from Climate and Development Ministers across the globe who stress the urgency to scale up and improve delivery of adaptation finance. 

COP28 is an important inflection point. As nations gather and engage in the first Global Stocktake, it’s time to set a vision to raise our collective ambition for action on adaptation in order to bolster government actions. Therefore:

We, the undersigned cohort of philanthropic organizations, join the chorus of voices around the world who are calling for and committing to accelerated progress and action on climate adaptation and resilience, and commit to:

  1. Work together as a group of philanthropic organizations, across a diversity of geographies and sectors, to increase our learning, coordination, investment, and overall impact to advance climate change adaptation and build climate resilience. 
  2. Develop coordinated strategies to scale and improve philanthropic action, guided by the priorities of those most impacted and other relevant stakeholders. This includes adopting an aligned and coordinated understanding of the spectrum of climate action in order to ensure we cover a diverse set of topics related to the impacts of climate change. 
  3. Challenge current support delivery norms and assumptions by engaging in new approaches to achieve transformational change. To date, most adaptation efforts have fallen short whether due to limited funding, incrementalism, inequitable community engagement, limited partnership building, and/or lack of investment in scalable business models. We will focus on effectiveness and transformative impact, not just funding levels. This includes embracing locally-led adaptation practices as well as a systems approach, in order to address underlying vulnerabilities stemming from domestic and international financial systems, trade and geopolitical dynamics, systemic inequality, and more.  
  4. Engage closely with others outside of philanthropy, including governments, civil society, financial institutions, corporations, and international institutions to create effective alliances that catalyze scalable impact. 
  5. Transparently and regularly share progress.

These commitments build off a series of comprehensive and constructive discussions among philanthropies who have committed to increase their engagement in this area and develop a joint strategic investment plan. Based on this strategic plan, we plan to increase our investment in adaptation over the coming years, as well as integrate adaptation into existing priorities. We will measure and track our investments over time, including reporting on collective progress by COP30.

Philanthropy can play an important role to help catalyze change by helping unlock other forms of capital; building innovation in policy, technology, and systems change design; acting nimbly and in pursuit of a bold, long-term vision; supporting critical yet often marginalized or sidelined agendas, including those of justice movements, rights defenders, and the informal sector; and building alliances across society. While the effects of climate change create unprecedented challenges for humanity, there is also an opportunity to build a future where no person is left behind.

We call upon all philanthropy — including those focused on health, food, democracy, justice, human rights, migration, humanitarian, development, peace and security, governance, SDGs, and other outcomes that will be harder to achieve as a result of our changing climate — to join this coalition of funders and commit to joint learning, coordination, strategy development, and increased investment to strengthen resilience and reduce climate vulnerability through increased support for climate adaptation.

The good news is we are not starting from scratch. We, along with many other funders, are already supporting strategic, high-impact investments and initiatives that advance adaptation goals. Examples of these initiatives can be found in the annex to this statement.  

To our government partners, we stand ready to work with you. The achievement of the COP26 goal to double adaptation finance by 2025, along with this year’s goal to agree on a robust framework for the Global Goal on Adaptation, will be critical to our collective success. We must all work together to achieve a more resilient world. 

For more information, please contact Jessica Brown at jessica.s.brown@climateworks.org.   

Signatories   

African Climate Foundation

Aga Khan Foundation

Arab Foundations Forum

Children’s Investment Fund Foundation  

Climate Emergency Collaboration Group  

ClimateWorks Foundation 

European Climate Foundation

Humanity United

Institute for Climate and Society

Laudes Foundation

Open Society Foundations 

Philanthropy Asia Alliance

Quadrature Climate Foundation 

Rumah Foundation

The Rockefeller Foundation 

Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation

Shockwave Foundation

Trafigura Foundation


Annex to the Adaptation Call to Action

Below is a non-exhaustive list of adaptation and resilience investments currently supported by the call to action signatories. The list of examples includes investments in Africa, Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East, and global portfolios. 

Africa

  • The Aga Khan Foundation Kenya is supporting smallholder farmers to adapt to climate change by enabling them to practice climate resilient, sustainable, and integrated farming practices, with improved access to markets and building capacity of local institutions to deliver climate resilience interventions at the community level.
  • Open Society Foundations is supporting the African Adaptation Initiative’s groundbreaking project fostering sustainable livelihoods in African rural villages grappling with climate change. This initiative employs blended finance to establish a financially viable model that drives low-emission, climate-resilient development. 
  • The Climate Emergency Collaboration Group is supporting the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa. CECG’s grant strengthens the Alliance’s capacity to engage in climate negotiations to advocate for the inclusion of agroecology as a viable adaptation solution for the African context. The Alliance of civil society actors from farmer organizations to NGOs will develop and disseminate evidence-based briefings and technical advice on agroecology.
  • The Climate Emergency Collaboration Group supports Adeso, an African organization working with communities to enable direct donor access and create economic, social and environmentally secure environments. This grant funds the creation of a dynamic map and database of Global South civil society organizations that are developing adaptation solutions.

Asia-Pacific

  • Open Society Foundations is supporting the Pacific Island Communities Climate Fund which aims to combat sea-level rise threats and preserve communities for generations to come. The Pacific Small Island Developing States are on the front lines of the climate crisis, and without ambitious action and support, these nations potentially face uninhabitable areas as early as 2050 and total inundation by the end of the century. 
  • Aga Khan Foundation Tajikistan is helping to improve ecosystem resilience and livelihoods in remote rural communities of the Rasht Valley. Local communities receive access to income generation opportunities to engage in management, regeneration and protection of their natural resources while adopting disaster risk reduction measures and practices.
  • Aga Khan Foundation Afghanistan is working to improve the livelihoods of low-income farmers in remote areas by strengthening sustainable natural resources management and community resilience. The country is facing heightened levels of poverty and food insecurity due to political volatility after the takeover of the Taliban, and grants directly to communities are high impact as they prioritize local and grassroots efforts.
  • Rumah Foundation is supporting Conservation International’s work in Asia to bring together the “twin pillars” of ocean conservation: protection and production. The Blue Economy Technical Assistance Facility looks to protect nature and livelihoods, optimize production, and link protection and production. This will eventually establish blended finance facilities to pool and disburse funding from fisheries and tourism proceeds toward marine resource management.
  • ClimateWorks Foundation is supporting India-based cKinetics to expand access to sustainable cold chain solutions suited for smallholder farmers across the country. The solutions will improve agricultural and other sectors in production and transport.

Latin America and the Caribbean

  • Open Society Foundations’ grant to Resilience Capital Venture supports an ambitious three-year economic and investment program to help close the gap the Bahamas faces in financing climate initiatives, especially for adaptation, resilience, and disaster preparedness and management. Targeted partners range from institutional investors to non-traditional sources of finance including the Caribbean diaspora, credit unions and regional financial firms.
  • Quadrature Climate Foundation’s grant directly supports the Government of Barbados’ national Resilience Roadmap as a bottom-up blueprint for a climate-smart, nature-positive, diversified economy. The Roadmap will identify the type of capital needed to build climate-resilient infrastructure, eventually creating a toolkit for other countries, leveraging the leadership of Barbados through the Bridgetown Initiative to champion demand-driven climate finance solutions. 

Middle East

  • Aga Khan Foundation Syria commits to strengthening resilience to climate change by promoting improved livestock practices in Aleppo, Homs, and Hama Governorates of Syria. Working hand-in-hand with communities and farmer groups over four years, the grant aims to increase resilience to the country’s food and climate crisis with innovative fodder and feed production systems
  • Aga Khan Foundation Syria also commits to improving the country’s agricultural system through a partnership named Road to Resilience. The partnership plans to support rural community livelihoods in Syria for a more viable, sustainable domestic food supply.
  • Rumah Foundation is supporting Israel-based Criaterra to transform construction materials with regenerative building products that enable local production. The team has developed Bio-Geo Agglomerated Stone products that have the strength of concrete and 6x the insulation with zero waste.

Global 

Open Society Foundations is supporting efforts to enhance accountability of funders for adaptation finance and locally led action commitments. For example, the International Institute for Environment and Development, the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, and partners are co-designing ‘360 degree accountability’ approaches, including machine learning to track climate finance flows, scorecards to provide tools for all actors to evaluate the quality of climate finance, and dialogues to enhance quality of climate finance.

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Published December 1, 2023

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Jennifer Rigney

jennifer.rigney@climateworks.org