Wind turbines

Four ways for social funders to address the climate crisis

By Liz Gadd 9 August 2021 4 minute read

As the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report declares ‘code red for humanity,’ now is the time for funders, regardless of their mission, to address the climate crisis. It is hoped that, if we can cut global emissions in half by 2030 and reach net carbon zero by 2050, we can halt and possibly reverse global temperature rises.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) report, which is considered the climate change evidence summary for policymakers worldwide, has stated that we must act if we are to avert the worst environmental and social impacts of climate change. UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, has said, ‘if we combine forces now, we can avert climate catastrophe. But, as today’s report makes clear, there is no time for delay and no room for excuses.’

So, how can social funders address climate change? Here are four ways you can help, whether you are new to funding environmental issues or already fund in this space.

1. Review your mission and strategy

Whether you are a funder working for the well-being of children and young people, a health funder, or a funder of migration issues, our changing world means that your funding strategy may have to change if you are to achieve your mission. Now is the time to ensure that your mission and strategy are not contributing to climate change, and to identify how you can support the low carbon transition and help those who will be most affected by climate change.

This crisis offers an unprecedented opportunity for funders and charities to contribute to social change, addressing longstanding inequalities. By tweaking your strategy and bringing your existing funding expertise to the climate change and environmental crisis, you can positively impact both people and planet. NPC are currently working with social and environmental charities, funders, and infrastructure bodies in this space, perhaps you would like to join us?

2. Fund the intersections of social issues and climate change

The transition to a post carbon economy presents a myriad of funding opportunities. We must ensure that the least privileged are not hit the hardest by climate change. Unfortunately we are insufficiently prepared for the upcoming changes to our lifestyles and, given the urgency required, we should expect a rapid, disorderly transition. We need decisive action to ensure that those with pre-existing conditions and people in poor housing and on low incomes, often in urban areas and disproportionately from ethnic minority communities, see improvements in their lives. We can improve housing as we climate proof our existing and new housing stock, we can reduce utility bills through cheaper renewable energy, we can make greener transport accessible to all, we can ensure better access to green spaces, and we can improve skills and jobs in the process. For example, a stimulus programme focused on green and digital infrastructure, research and development, energy work and care work could create more than 1.2 million green jobs within two years and more than 2.7 million jobs during the next decade, according to research from Green New Deal UK.

One of the most pervasive intersections between social and environmental issues is health. The least privileged members of our communities have the most to gain from funding to improve health that also seeks to tackle climate change. For example, by reducing air pollution we can, by 2035, prevent around 2.5 million new cases of coronary heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, childhood asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, low birth weight, and dementia. NPC, with the Environmental Funders Network, are currently developing a funder briefing on the intersection of human and environmental health to be published soon (sign up to our newsletter to be notified of its publication).

3. Fund environmental projects

Whatever causes you support, they will be affected, directly or indirectly, by climate change. This is why 14 major environmental funders have encouraged the UK’s leading philanthropists to fund environmental projects. Less than 4% of the UK’s giving from trusts and foundations goes to environmental causes and less than 2% to climate causes. There are plenty of stories to inspire you and an array of charities out there working on climate change. Some of the most impactful areas to fund are the so called Cinderella issues, areas which are forgotten about and receive the least funding but are huge drivers of change, for example the environmental determinates of mental health. NPC can support you with funding environmental projects and you will find a wealth of resources within Acting on the Climate Crisis – Why, How and the Role of Philanthropy: A resource pack for funders.

4. Use all your assets to address climate change

An increasing number of funders are signing the Funder Commitment on Climate Change in the UK, and its international equivalent, in recognition that climate change is important to all our missions. This includes the commitment to ensure that endowment investment is aligned with mission and values, for example by divesting from fossil fuels.

Many charities, particularly as we emerge from the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, are struggling to find the time and information to support their own reflection and changes to their practice. Funders must support their grantees through additional unrestricted and long-term funding, as well as by helping to address the gaps in information provision.

For more information on the intersection of social and environmental issues, plus support to develop your strategy or next steps, please contact You can also join us at NPC Ignites to hear more discussions on this topic.

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report declares ‘code red for humanity.' Regardless of their mission, funders must act. Here's how they can help halt global rises in temperature: Click To Tweet