Climate and Energy

Overview

Climate change is the defining issue of our day. It is an urgent global crisis that affects every problem philanthropy seeks to solve, whether it’s improving health, alleviating poverty, reducing famine, promoting peace, or advancing social justice. To safeguard human health and the environment, the Hewlett Foundation supports work to ensure that energy sources are clean and efficient, and that global average temperature rise is kept well below 2° Celsius.

The Hewlett Foundation has been investing for a number of years in various strategies to avoid the worst effects of climate change and spare human suffering by reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Our grants focus on cleaning up power production, using less oil, using energy more efficiently, preserving forests, addressing non-CO2 greenhouse gases, and financing climate-friendly investments. Our grantmaking is focused in developed countries with high energy demand and developing countries with fast-growing energy demand or high deforestation rates.

 

Goals

The following fundamental logic guides our grantmaking:

  1. We should focus our charitable dollars on mitigating climate change. The window for effective mitigation is rapidly closing, and the more society can reduce future warming, the less it will need to adapt.
  2. The most effective way to reduce GHG emissions is to focus on supporting progress in the biggest emitting countries and regions of the world: China, the United States, Europe, and India. These areas have both the largest potential gains and opportunities for spillover effects to other countries.
  3. Within these countries and regions, we should focus on the highest-emitting industries and sectors, including electricity and transportation, as well as industrial processes, the built environment, and forests and land-use.
  4. Philanthropy can speed emissions reductions by supporting a mix of analysis, advocacy, communications, technical assistance, innovation, business sector engagement, public-private partnership, and building public support and will for policy change. This work is largely national, and includes support for international agreements.
  5. The dramatic emissions reductions we need will not be possible unless we shift our thinking. We must get beyond our present focus on near-term, incremental efforts that reduce emissions today, and identify the longer-term, scaled-up, step-changes needed to mitigate the climate problem. To do that, we looked farther into the future—to 2050, rather than 2025 or 2030, and asked: What will energy and economic systems need to look like in 2050 to achieve the well below 2°C goal? And how can philanthropy support this transition?

Given this logic, we have five strategic imperatives for our grantmaking:

  1. Support work to reduce fossil fuels: We must continue to support current efforts to peak global use of fossil fuels as early as possible, including defending recent successes.
  2. Support work on energy systems: We must pivot from narrowly focusing on specific sub-elements of the energy sector to looking for systemic shifts that are potentially transformational. For example, instead of resting on the field’s success at bringing renewable electricity generation to market, we must now support work to overcome the complex, persistent, and interrelated regulatory, legal, social, and political barriers to deploying it at scale.
  3. Support work integrating across sectors. The work we support needs to be more broadly integrated across different problems and solutions. For example, transforming the transportation sector will require going beyond vehicle improvement and integrating it with the electricity, information, and land-use sectors.
  4. Support work to store carbon in the land. Climate models suggest that nearly a third of global emissions reductions must come from managing our lands, our agriculture, and our forests. To date, only a very small share of government or philanthropic resources has gone to support this work. Our society must increase that amount dramatically.
  5. Support and promote innovation. Climate philanthropy needs to invest more in research, analysis, and advocacy for policies that drive innovation in advanced energy systems and technologies. This includes finding ways to unlock public funding for the early stages of innovation and encouraging private investment for the commercial deployment of viable new technologies.

Ideas + Practice

Our Grantmaking

Center for Climate and Energy Solutions
for the Climate Innovation 2050 program
European Climate Foundation
for general operating support
ClimateWorks Foundation
for the transforming transportation program

Our Team

Jonathan Pershing [Headshot]
Jonathan Pershing 
Program Director
Erin Rogers
Erin Rogers 
Program Officer
Anand Gopal
Anand Gopal 
Program Officer
Liz Judge
Liz Judge 
Communications Officer
 @judgethis
Mary Flannelly 
Program Associate

Learn More

The stakes are enormous. Melting ice and the resulting rise in sea levels are accelerating beyond predictions, and dangerous tipping points once thought to be a century away may now occur in years and decades. The impact of climate change in its current course is a serious global threat that must be addressed. Science tells us that we need to make drastic changes in the way we use energy over approximately the next decade to prevent irreversible climate change.

That is why in 2008, the Hewlett Foundation decided to make a five-year, $500 million commitment to supporting efforts to solve climate change. In 2013, we renewed our commitment and pledged another $500 million through 2018. And in 2018, as evidence of climate change and costs in human suffering mount, our board approved the single largest funding commitment made in the foundation’s history, $600 million for our climate initiative from 2018 through 2023.

Our climate change grantmaking support efforts that can have the greatest impact in achieving climate pollution reductions. This means focusing on developed countries with high energy demand, such as the United States and European Union nations, as well as developing countries with fast-growing energy demand such as China and India, and countries with high deforestation rates such as Brazil and Indonesia.

Our energy and climate work emphasizes developing policies and building a broad base of support in constituencies essential for policy change: business, national security, public health, environmental groups, and groups representing diverse populations and communities hit by climate change. We track progress by measuring the emission reductions resulting from climate and clean energy policies that governments adopt, and on building political will for action on these policies.

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