Climate + Poverty

Advancing Climate Solutions

Our Climate + Poverty initiative confronts climate change in ways that align with our mission to combat global poverty. By applying a rigorous approach to working at the intersection of climate and poverty, we are developing a base of actionable knowledge about solutions that simultaneously address these two challenges.

The specific framing for our initiative is “turning data into action” (at the intersection of climate change and poverty). This framing hinges on the notion that data by itself is insufficient to drive change; similarly, action that is not evidence-based and informed by data about ‘what works’ is unlikely to generate the massive impact at scale that is needed. King Philanthropies seeks to catalyze and turbocharge the effort to turn data into action through its funding to visionary and high performing organizations working in this space. Those in extreme poverty will be disproportionately affected by climate change, even though they did the least to cause it. Both mitigation and adaptation initiatives are needed. Through our Climate + Poverty initiative, King Philanthropies invests in a variety of organizations:

King Climate Action Initiative

A signature element of our work is the recent creation of the King Climate Action Initiative (K-CAI), a joint effort of King Philanthropies and the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The goal of K-CAI is to design, test, and evaluate interventions that simultaneously address climate change and poverty. K-CAI also works with decision-makers to catalyze the scaling of high-impact, evidence-based policy solutions.

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MethaneSAT and the Environmental Defense Fund

A second signature element of our work is our funding for MethaneSAT, a project of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). Because methane emissions drive the rate of global warming in the short term more rapidly than any other greenhouse gas, reducing them is critical to averting catastrophic damages that harm vulnerable populations. EDF is developing what will become the most advanced methane tracking satellite in space. By generating publicly available data on worldwide methane emissions, MethaneSAT aims to catalyze global action to achieve a 45% reduction in oil and gas emissions by 2025. King Philanthropies also supports EDF’s climate program (which works with policymakers and business leaders in China, Europe, India, and the United States) and several additional initiatives, including low-cost air quality sensors in India and nature-based climate solutions.

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Additional context guiding our Climate + Poverty work at King Philanthropies

Climate change threatens the well-being of everyone on the planet. But it poses an especially acute threat to people in extreme poverty (defined as living on less than $1.90 a day). Today, 2 billion people live in or near poverty. By 2030, according to an estimate by the United Nations, climate change will not only push an additional 100 million people into extreme poverty but also displace more than 200 million people worldwide.

We see an opportunity to connect two distinct fields within the social sector. Climate change funders focus mainly on reducing greenhouse gas emissions in high-emitting countries. Global development funders, meanwhile, focus mainly on improving the lives of the people who live in the world’s poorest regions. Relatively few funders are investing in climate mitigation efforts that will specifically target those who live in extreme poverty.

Today, of course, people who live in poverty are not a major source of climate change-causing emissions. Even so, building a low-carbon pathway to prosperity for that population will be critical to achieving the dual goals of alleviating poverty and limiting the increase in global temperatures.

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