Climate change and poor air quality are major global development issues. There is a large literature showing that an additional ton of CO2 emissions will result in excess mortality and large income damages that will disproportionately hurt the global poor. Additionally, fossil fuel combustion, especially of coal, results in air pollution that creates further health damages. This literature recently motivated us to launch one of our newest programs, focused on improving South Asian air quality.
We think tackling carbon lock-in can be a highly impactful strategy to mitigate both climate change and poor air quality. We recognize that there are meaningful tensions between decarbonizing and growing access to energy, especially in emerging economies, and we recognize the importance of preserving technological neutrality to hedge against the worst outcomes. Nonetheless, we think there are important opportunities to accelerate the transition to lower-carbon energy sources to protect people from the harms of climate change and air pollution.
Tara Climate Foundation works to accelerate a fair and just clean energy transition in East, Southeast, and South Asia (excluding China and India). It plays a central role in developing and supporting nascent civil society organizations and growing the climate ecosystem across the region. We are providing $10,000,000 through the Regranting Challenge to support Tara’s work.
Climate philanthropy is a growing field: a recent report estimated philanthropic funding of $7.5-12.5 billion in 2021 toward climate mitigation, an increase of 25% compared with 2020. But this funding is not allocated proportionally to current or future emissions: of the $1.7 billion annual average in foundation funding between 2017 and 2021, roughly $50 million per year (~3%) is spent explicitly in East, Southeast, and South Asia (excluding China and India). We expect that individual giving is even less focused on this region.
Tara’s work covers an area with a population of 1.4 billion people which currently contributes 12% of annual global emissions (expected to rise to 17% in 2050 under the IEA’s Announced Pledges Scenario). We think Tara’s geographic focus represents an opportunity to have an outsized impact relative to funding work in less neglected regions.
We are particularly interested in funding work to decarbonize the power sector because of the large and neglected impacts of harmful ambient air pollution, to which coal is a meaningful contributor.
"Theories of change cannot come exclusively from the West. Organizations like Tara—with its southern- and region-led team—are critically important because they have unique insights into the political context in which they operate. Consequently, they are highly effective at leading on sustainable strategies that have legitimacy and are informed by, and reflect the needs of, local communities and people."
— Athena Ballesteros, Managing Director (Global Climate Strategies), Climate Leadership Initiative
We believe that our funding will progress Tara’s work accelerating the clean energy transition, which is important enough to be competitive with our other options. We think that our grant, if successful, might lead this work to happen earlier than it would have otherwise, reducing emissions and improving air quality relative to the counterfactual.