At least $2.1 billion in new funds pledged at COP28, as foundations focus on health and agriculture

As the United Nations climate talks conclude in Dubai, foundations and other funders have committed at least $2.1 billion in new financing to reduce climate impacts, especially from agriculture, and increase aid for vulnerable communities .

The Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC, or COP28 summit, featured numerous firsts, including forums on health, food production and philanthropy. The estimated pledges, which do not provide a full picture of philanthropic commitments at COP28, came from a mix of foundations and private companies, some made in partnership with governments. They are delivered within a range of timelines.

For the first time, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria sent a delegation to the conference, pledging to spend 70% of its budget, about $9 billion, in the 50 most climate-sensitive countries over the next three years.

“The honest answer is that the global health community, including ourselves, has been so focused on COVID-19 that we probably haven't paid enough attention to all the signs of what climate change is doing to global health,” says Peter Sands. CEO of the Global Fund.

His organization also launched a set of principles for financing projects at the intersection of climate and health, together with the World Health Organization, the Green Climate Fund, the Rockefeller Foundation and the COP Presidency.

The first act & The philanthropy forum offered foundations, donors and corporations a greater formal role at a time when COP28 leaders are seeking more private sector funding.

Philanthropic funding for climate change mitigation remained largely unchanged in 2022 after showing consistent growth over the past three years, according to a ClimateWorks Foundation report released earlier this month. The lack of growth is attributed to global economic conditions, including increased inflation.

“Every sector of society must do more to contribute, including philanthropy,” said Helene Desanlis, director of climate philanthropy for global intelligence at ClimateWorks. According to her, this includes both increasing funding amounts and working more closely with other funders and actors.

The forum announced new blended finance instruments, which can finance initiatives through a mix of corporate investments and donations, as well as a call for direct financing for indigenous peoples already working to protect the environment in their communities.

Ozawa Bineshi Albert, co-executive director of the Climate Justice Alliance, which advocates for people and organizations in frontline communities affected by climate change, said it is a welcome idea to increase funding for indigenous peoples, who she said have always faced a tough have to fight to be heard during these meetings.

“It would be generous if I said I'm cautiously optimistic,” Albert said. “There's a difference between people advocating to be benevolent caretakers of Indigenous people versus Indigenous people who are at the table because they are players and have a stake in what's going to happen.”

Albert said the company & A philanthropy forum can be useful, but government policies and regulations, especially in reducing carbon production, would be much more useful.

“Should and could they do more? Absolutely,” she said. “Do I think their investment in this is going to save us from the crisis we are in? No. The government has yet to act. If we don't reduce and eliminate carbon production from our energy sources, no matter how much philanthropy invests in it, we will never be able to dig out of the hole.”

Christie Ulman, president of the Sequoia Climate Foundation, which focuses on reducing emissions in part through the clean energy transition, said she supports their grantee organizations and partners at the COP in advocating ambitious renewable energy targets and reducing other pollutants such as methane.

“We are also encouraging and mainstreaming the fossil fuel phase-out agenda there,” she said of her organization's role at the summit. Along with several other philanthropic funders, Sequoia announced a $450 million commitment to target the reduction of methane and other pollutants over three years.

Last year, Sequoia, along with some of the same financiers, pledged $500 million over three years to accelerate the transition to clean energy sources in low- and middle-income countries. So far, Ullman has said the coalition has awarded 40% of the pledge, or about $200 million.

Ulman said the investments are intended to support the plans and projects countries have already made around energy transitions and she hopes additional financing will follow.

The Bezos Earth Fund has committed $100 million to support a plan by Pacific island nations to protect and sustainably manage marine ecosystems. Bloomberg Philanthropies has also made commitments around protecting the oceans, transitioning to clean energy and supporting cities adapting to climate change.

The bill & The Melinda Gates Foundation, which has long focused on food insecurity by developing tools and technology to help farmers adapt to climate change, has announced a new $100 million commitment with the United Arab Emirates, to be completed once pledged $100 million. Some of those funds will go to CGIAR, an agricultural research group, which the Gates Foundation has supported with more than $100 million in grants over time.

“No other effort to adapt to climate change will have more impact,” Gates said in prepared remarks from CGIAR.

The Gates Foundation and other funders have also collectively committed $770 million to expand the work of a UAE-established fund to eradicate neglected tropical diseases called Reaching the Last Mile Fund.

The Global Fund's Sands advocated using the existing global healthcare architecture as much as possible to reduce the burden on healthcare systems in individual countries and called for swift action in the short term as climate change worsens health inequalities around the world .

“What it essentially does is make those who are most vulnerable and have the least access to health care even more vulnerable and have even less access to health care,” he said.


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