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Climate Solutions

Our Goal

Limit global warming as close as possible to the scientifically endorsed goal of 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels by significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Why We Support This Work

Based on a vast scientific literature, we know that:

  • Earth’s climate is changing in ways inconsistent with natural variability.
  • The principal cause is the build-up of atmospheric carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping substances (e.g., methane) emitted mainly by the burning of fossil fuels for electricity production and the increasing use of land in ways that limit its ability to absorb greenhouse gases.
  • Harmful impacts are already being experienced around the world and across the United States.
  • Negative impacts will only increase in intensity until emissions are drastically reduced.

Any scenario for meeting the 2-degree goal means reducing global emissions sharply in the next decade. The starting point is that a small number of countries are responsible for a very large share of global emissions. The three largest emitters, in order, are China, the United States, and India. China is the world’s largest emitter; leaders there increasingly understand the dangers of air pollution and climate change, and are moving toward cleaner energy. The United States is the largest emitter historically, yet continues to lack a cohesive national approach to addressing climate change. India’s emissions are projected to surpass China’s, with 80 percent of projected emissions to come from sources not yet built; this provides an opportunity to make long-term, beneficial decisions now. 

Our Approach

The Foundation’s working theory of change is that three nations—the United States, China, and India—must dramatically improve their respective efforts to (1) reduce greenhouse gas emissions; (2) facilitate informed public discourse on climate change; and (3) transition to a low-carbon economy. These countries are the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gas emissions and will profoundly influence the state of Earth’s atmosphere and the global economy long into the future.

Each nation will have its own style, approach, and goals, though collectively they must ensure a steep decline in current and future greenhouse gas emissions within the next decade. If these three nations meet their ambitious emissions reductions targets, then other nations will be compelled to act and meet their own targets, which collectively would result in the world abating catastrophic climate change.

Through its Climate Solutions grantmaking, MacArthur will support efforts to turn the corner on rising emissions of greenhouse gases by 2025, a threshold beyond which scientists agree that rising seas, severe droughts, and food and water security become permanent challenges to humankind. To meet that goal, international leadership and cooperation is needed to slow the rate of climate change quickly, and to put in place the systematic changes needed to drive down emissions steeply in the long term.

Funding Priorities

Given the current, and evolving, approaches to address climate change, initial grants will focus on building and sustaining sufficient U.S. leadership to ensure that the United States meets its own responsibilities to address climate change and reduce emissions by supporting efforts that help:

  • Place a price on carbon.
  • Reduce methane emissions, especially from development and production of oil and natural gas.
  • Alter the fuel mix for electricity generation by decreasing reliance on fossil fuels and increasing the use of renewable sources.
  • Implement bilateral and international agreements with key developing countries on policies or programs to address climate issues.

Current and future grants will promote efforts within and between the United States, China, and India, among other nations, for leadership, policy development, best practices, and innovations designed to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
To enable and assist India’s demonstrated and growing leadership on climate change, initial grantmaking supports efforts that:

  • Improve the capacity of non-governmental organizations to engage with the Indian government on climate policy.
  • Build support for an emissions trading scheme.
  • Catalyze renewable energy production by filling critical knowledge gaps.
  • Encourage clean technology adoption through targeted capacity building.

The Foundation is not currently accepting proposals for this work.

Measurement and Evaluation for Learning

The measurement and evaluation of the Climate Solutions initiative includes questions that (1) test our theory of change and underlying assumptions, (2) assess our activities, and (3) measure the extent to which we have met our intended outcomes in the United States, India, and China. From measurement and evaluation we expect to learn the extent to which the Foundation’s strategy and investments  contribute to and help stabilize the pace of greenhouse gas emissions growth in developing countries and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.

Evaluations will be published below as they are completed.


Updated October 2016

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