Middle East lags behind when it comes to climate philanthropy

New data shows that philanthropic funding for climate initiatives plateaued in 2022, with the Middle East and Central Asia showing the least activity.

Global philanthropic donations towards mitigating climate change have slowed, with the Middle East seeing the least amount of funding of all regions, according to a new report by ClimateWorks, a US-based nonprofit tracking climate philanthropy. During 2022, total philanthropic giving by foundations and individual donors was estimated at US$ 811 billion, of which less than two percent ($7.8bn - $12.8bn) was directed towards tackling climate change.

These figures, according to the ClimateWorks’ Funding Trends Report, are essentially unchanged from 2021.

Helen Mountford, president and CEO at ClimateWorks, said the data showed a concerning slowdown at a time when climate philanthropy needed to increase in order to play its part in limiting global warming and achieving net zero targets.

“Overall, we have a fairly disappointing picture of climate philanthropy,” she explained. In a year that was marked by global economic challenges, record breaking temperatures, and a surge in climate related disasters, she said: “More could have been done to accelerate climate action.”

“After years of growth, philanthropic funding to mitigate climate change showed no growth at all in 2022, and still falls far short of the scale required for the global crisis,” Mountford added.

Foundations in North America and Europe led the way, accounting for a combined 63 percent of total giving to climate mitigation initiatives during 2022. But the region that saw the biggest surge in momentum was Africa, whose nine percent of the total global climate giving represented a 38 percent increase from 2021.

By comparison, foundations in the Middle East and Central Asia region saw the least amount of philanthropic funding towards the climate crisis, according to Helene Desanlis, director of Climate Philanthropy at ClimateWorks and one of the authors of the report.

“Maintaining the status quo is simply not enough. We should see this report as a reality check, and a call to action for all of philanthropy to up their game.”

Helen Mountford, ClimateWorks, president and CEO

“Middle East and Central Asia is the region that we track which received the least amount of funding. Less than three million dollars per year on average has been going to that region between 2018 and 2022, and less than one million dollars in 2022 alone,” said Desanlis, in response to a question from Philanthropy Age about levels of climate philanthropy in the region.

This was a reason why the region typically receives little coverage in the ClimateWorks report. “There are so few grants and such little data that there's not a lot of stories,” explained Desanlis, who said they had not witnessed increases like in other parts of the world.

Despite the overall lack of growth in global climate philanthropy, the report did highlight some success stories from 2022, including an acceleration in the global transition towards clean energy, commitments to ending Amazon deforestation in Brazil, and the establishment, at COP27 in Egypt, of a loss and damage fund to help low-income countries deal with the impacts of climate change.

Nonetheless, according to Mountford, much more needs to be done by philanthropists and foundations, with little time to spare. “To put it frankly,” she said. “The current funding is not commensurate with the urgency of the crisis, and the scale of efforts needed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.”

Maintaining the status quo was simply not enough, she added. “We should see this report as a reality check, and a call to action for all of philanthropy to up their game. There are many solutions that exist today that are ready to scale, but they must be funded like we want them to win. We need an influx of funding to these solutions in this decade, in this year, at this moment. Now is the time.” - PA