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Taking philanthropy to the next level in Asia can support climate and nature

Philanthropy is the independent funding and strategic solution to leverage greater public and private investment.

Philanthropy is the independent funding and strategic solution to leverage greater public and private investment. Image:

Luis Alvarado
Head, Giving to Amplify Earth Action (GAEA), World Economic Forum
Rob Johan Adriaan Van Riet
Senior Adviser, GAEA - Strategic PPP Partnerships, Centre for Nature and Climate
Sharon Koh
Director, Knowledge and Strategy, Philanthropy Asia Alliance
Yvonne Leung
Global Strategic Engagement Lead, Philanthropy for Nature and Climate, World Economic Forum
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Sustainable Finance and Investment

This article is part of: Annual Meeting of the New Champions

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  • Over $3 trillion in climate finance is needed to reach net-zero by 2050.
  • Philanthropic-Private-Public Partnerships can help unlock critical capital.
  • The first Asia-focused report from GAEA will highlight key opportunities.

To reach net-zero, reverse nature loss and restore biodiversity by 2050, funding for equitable climate and nature transitions must be stepped up by more than $3 trillion a year. At this critical juncture, transformational and bold actions are needed – at pace and scale. This will mitigate the global and complex risks impacting the most vulnerable communities with repercussions for health, livelihoods, food security and equality.

With a public sector occupied with addressing the polycrisis and a private sector often not incentivised enough to invest in climate and nature, the third “P” – philanthropy – is uniquely positioned to catalyse changes. By unlocking the power of philanthropic-private-public partnerships (PPP Partnerships) we can accelerate ambitious action on climate change and nature to create a sustainable world where we all thrive. Philanthropy, which is already increasing giving to tackle the climate crisis, can further home in and be the upfront, value-driven capital catalyst at the points of need. With its ability to be nimble, move fast, and target opportunities, philanthropy is the independent funding and strategic solution to leverage greater public and private investment.

Climate change and nature cuts across everything you do

There is broad consensus that climate change and nature underpin everything. No more acutely is this felt than in Asia. The Global Climate Risk Index estimates that 60% of the most climate-vulnerable countries are in South and South-East Asia. Swiss Re Institute believes that Asia’s GDP may shrink more than 25% over the next 25 years without action on climate change. Philanthropy has the advantage of looking beyond the next quarter and immediate business objectives to work collaboratively with diverse parties to advance a shared strategic objective.

Show me the money

A recent report by ClimateWorks Foundation reveals that global philanthropic giving to climate saw an increase of 25% in 2021 compared with an 8% increase in overall philanthropic giving for the year. But even with the incredible growth, global philanthropic funding for climate change mitigation still represents less than 2% and nature crises remain under 2% annually. Spending on climate adaption and nature is equally low. Of this global spending on climate mitigation, more than two-thirds were targeted to a single country or region. Out of this funding, less than 12% emanates from Asia (mostly China) while North America and Europe accounted for 43% and 23% respectively.

Helen Mountford, President and CEO, ClimateWorks Foundation, said: “Asia and South-East Asia are pivotal in the fight against climate change, and governments and others in these regions have been stepping up their leadership to meet sustainable development goals. But significantly more investment is needed to accelerate their efforts to reduce emissions and build resilience to climate impacts. By working in partnership together, governments, corporate leaders, local communities and philanthropy can catalyse faster action and more investments to deliver development aspirations, safeguard the climate and ensure access by all to affordable clean energy and healthy food.”

According to Gim Huay Neo, Managing Director of the World Economic Forum: “A systems lens and a holistic approach is needed to address the escalating nature and climate crisis. We need to foster more partnerships across different stakeholder groups to consolidate efforts, harness respective strengths and capabilities and catalyse the policy, business and technological innovations urgently needed to safeguard our global commons."


What’s the World Economic Forum doing about climate change?

Pinpointing where philanthropic capital is most needed

But how can we collectively identify these regional tipping points and scale investable sustainable solutions? In Asia, the willingness is there now to share best practices and learnings across vast and diverse regions for accelerated funding. More and better data backed by science, real-world examples, success stories and solutions can all be ignited by philanthropy as the neutral broker. GAEA (Giving to Amplify Earth Action) gathers more than 50 key actors to go even faster and further than we can even imagine.

The first Asia-focused GAEA deliverable is a report to deep dive into the region with its key partner, the Philanthropy Asia Alliance (PAA) – a Temasek Trust initiative dedicated to catalysing collaborative philanthropy in Asia through dynamic multi-sector partnerships. The report aims to offer insights into this critical and diverse region, and explore how multi-sector collaboration can release philanthropic capital that is nimble, agile, and more tolerant to risk, thereby de-risking and unlocking even bigger sustainable funding sources.

The Catalysing Climate Action in Asia: Unlocking the Power of Philanthropic-Private-Public Partnerships report is planned to launch in November 2023 at COP28 in Dubai. This report will, for the first time:

  • Map out top priorities of key PPP actors in the region and identify the drivers of momentum.
  • Showcase sector and regional successes in value chains in the region.
  • Spotlight the need for overarching action beyond borders and regions.
  • Co-strategize and co-fund value-shared models for greater impact.
  • Shared learnings on governance models, research and innovation, capacity building and knowledge sharing, policy advocacy and engagement.

Seok Hui Lim, Chief Executive Officer, Philanthropy Asia Alliance, said: “We see the urgent need to pool our collective resources and expertise to translate ideas into tangible business and community-led action in Asia. This upcoming climate philanthropy report will map the regional landscape and outline the opportunities and challenges to build stronger multi-sector partnerships. This will facilitate collaboration on programmes, the exchange of knowledge and mobilise capital in a meaningful way. Together, players across the philanthropic, private and public sectors can be a powerful force for good.”

Will to win: new generation PPP Partnerships in Asia

The world is not on track to meet global climate goals to secure a liveable future and limit warming to 1.5C. Philanthropic actors can convene and engage with government, business leaders, academia and civil society partners for the region. At its best, philanthropy can take initial risks and test new approaches to catalyse action, whose success can then attract much larger public and private investments. We need planet innovation. The continued prosperity of societies and economies requires net-zero and nature-positive transitions in socio-economic systems. The consortium model of pooled talent, resources and operations is the new design of PPP collaborations needed to catalyse the reshaping of industrial and agricultural systems, while safeguarding lives and livelihoods, and addressing food, water, material and energy security issues.

Have you read?

An invitation from the planet

Now is not the time for siloed incremental activities. Only meaningful partnerships across stakeholders can drive the business, innovations, technologies and policies to co-create a just and equitable future in Asia. At the Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2023 in Tianjin, the World Economic Forum is bringing together leaders to exchange and discuss perspectives and ideas, co-create solutions and partnerships that are necessary to deal with the immediate challenges of 2023 and beyond. At its very core, is the role tools like blended finance and catalytic philanthropy play as mobilizers to de-risk investment in climate and nature.

We will be discussing the role China plays in this new multi-polar and fragmented world in designing the new generation of PPP Partnerships. The critical questions we need to answer together are what innovations in business, technologies and partnerships are needed to co-create our future and what legacy we want to leave for the next generation.

This is an open invitation from GAEA to build on existing PPP Partnerships best practices and success stories to create new generation of PPP Partnerships in Asia to impact all of our futures for the better.

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World Economic Forum

May 21, 2024

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