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Climate philanthropy: Making a case for inclusivity

GRDAJ 11 Dec 22 :

India is the seventh-most vulnerable, out of 181 countries, to the consequences of climate change, with our marginalized communities being the most at risk, according to the Global Climate Risk Index 2021. Even though climate change is a global concern, not everyone will be uniformly impacted.

In addition to geographical location, race, caste, ethnicity, economic well-being and occupation significantly impact how people experience climate change. Climate is a deeply intersectional issue, and its impact cuts across almost all sectors, with vulnerable communities facing the worst onslaught of climate change due to poverty, lack of resources, and awareness. Floods, wildfires, and droughts are sudden climatic disasters that cause displacement and adversely impact people's livelihoods. These effects will differ between men and women in different societies, with women bearing a disproportionate share of the burden because of the social, political, and economic marginalization they experience from systems and structures.


Given that the Sustainable Development Agenda for 2030 emphasizes holistic development with an endeavour to focus on the most vulnerable and underserved, there is an urgent need for philanthropy in India to help communities cope with the socio-economic impacts of climate change by building resilience and supporting environmental-justice efforts.


Disproportionate adverse effects on the most vulnerable A district-level climate vulnerability assessment study conducted by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), noted that 27 of 35 states and Union territories are highly vulnerable to extreme hydro-meteorological catastrophes and their compounded impacts. Another study by CEEW that conducted district-level profiling of India's extreme climate events noted that 75 percent of Indian districts, housing over 638 million people, are extreme climate vulnerability hotspots. While droughts and erratic rainfall severely hamper agricultural produce, rising sea levels threaten the livelihoods of coastal communities and fisherfolk.


Climate change is a threat multiplier that affects every sector, be it livelihoods, education, poverty, habitats, health, energy demand and infrastructure investments, and must not be viewed as a siloed issue. Women, children, marginalized communities, working class, urban poor, disabled people, among others, are more vulnerable to climate change due to dependency on daily wages, limited access to infrastructure and basic utilities such as sanitation, water supply, and healthcare. These factors, coupled with their limited representation in public decision-making, jeopardize their capacity to endure and recover from disasters of varying scales successfully. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has reported that nearly five million people were internally displaced in India due to climate change and disasters in 2021. Another 45 million people are estimated to be forced to migrate by 2050 due to climate disasters, as per the Climate Action Network South Asia (CANSA).


It is crucial to conduct vulnerability mapping of communities with respect to climate change and amplify those voices and organizations that have been underrepresented in climate action. Opportunity for philanthropy It is estimated that India needs USD 1.01 trillion in climate finance by 2030, across domains such as resilient cities, sustainable food, renewable energy, among others. We are at a critical juncture where philanthropy, especially family philanthropy, is uniquely positioned to play a catalytic role in not only increasing investment in climate but also galvanizing inclusive action to secure the interests and welfare of the most vulnerable to climate effects. Though giving to climate action is currently low in India, there is growing interest with contributions to climate and adjacent sectors, such as environmental sustainability and rural development, doubling between FY2018 and FY2020. However, much more needs to be done urgently.


Here are four considerations for philanthropy as we confront the greatest existential crisis humanity has ever faced.


1. Adopt an intersectional and collaborative approach: Philanthropy must move away from looking at climate change as a siloed issue and adopt an intersectional approach by looking at its linkages with food security, energy, health, and other sectors. It is imperative that stakeholders at all levels come together and address these issues through a systemic approach by engaging in effective research; pursuing successful policy change, and measuring relevant data to see what works.


Philanthropy can play a crucial role in leading the charge on this and holding these diverse pieces together.


2. Embed a gender-equity-diversity-inclusion (GEDI) lens: Given the disproportionate impact of climate change on vulnerable communities; gender, equity, diversity, and inclusion should absolutely remain at the core of climate philanthropy. There is a need to support affected communities to recover from the impact of disasters and the pandemic, as they have gone back several years financially.Philanthropic funding should be directed to support organizations and projects that prioritize vulnerable communities, including women and girls, immigrants and refugees of colour, indigenous communities, minorities, and the working class as a whole who are most at risk from climate change.


3. Foster community leadership: Philanthropy should push for building a network of local champions for climate action,