Last February, Jeff Bezos announced his $10 billion Earth Fund to tackle climate change. This week, the first tranche of that money — $791 million — has been allocated. Five established climate advocacy groups will get $100 million apiece: the Environmental Defense Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Nature Conservancy, the World Resources Institute, and the World Wildlife Fund. The balance of the money will be distributed among several lesser known entities like Dream Corps’ Green For All, the Hive Fund for Climate and Gender Justice, and The Solutions Project.
On Instagram, Bezos said, “I’ve spent the past several months learning from a group of incredibly smart people who’ve made it their life’s work to fight climate change and its impact on communities around the world. I’m inspired by what they’re doing, and excited to help them scale. We can all protect Earth’s future by taking bold action now.”
According to EcoSystems Marketplace, the World Wildlife Fund will use the money to focus on the restoration of forests and degraded mangroves in Colombia, Fiji, Madagascar, and Mexico. It will also support markets for biofuel built around seaweed. The Environmental Defense Fund will use its allocation to support its MethaneSAT project, which aims to locate and measure emissions of methane — a greenhouse gas that traps 80 times as much heat as does carbon dioxide in the short term.
The Environmental Defense Fund will use the money to “build confidence in carbon credits by improving scientific understanding of the storage and removal of carbon using nature-based processes in forests, agricultural soils, and oceans,” while the Natural Resources Defense Council says it apply the money it receives from The Earth Fund to “protect and restore ecosystems that store carbon (like forests and wetlands), and accelerate sustainable and regenerative agriculture practices.”
Leaders of the groups receiving funds said they met earlier this year with Bezos and his partner Lauren Sánchez to discuss what they would do with the grants. Bezos has a small team, including from his personal office, helping to figure out how to parcel out the funds, they said. He will likely hire more people to assist with the Earth Fund.
Fred Krupp, head of the EDF, tells the Washington Post he and other environmental leaders have met with Bezos regularly in recent months. “He asked a lot of questions. It was very clear that he had already learned a lot about climate change and was very knowledgeable. He had studied the issue, and he was very focused on having the biggest impact he could with his contribution. Solving the climate crisis requires investment in a wide set of solutions,” he added.
“The obstacle isn’t finding solutions, it is securing the funding to scale solutions quickly. Our hope is that this gift encourages other philanthropists to support climate solutions on the scale needed. Thanks to this and other funding, we will cut methane pollution from the oil and gas industry by 45 percent by 2025, which will be the same 20-year benefit of closing a third of the world’s power plants,” Krupp declared.
“Climate change is the biggest crisis facing humanity but, despite lots of great work, has been an underfunded area of philanthropy,” said Jules Kortenhorst, head of the Rocky Mountain Institute, which received $10 million. “Mr. Bezos’s grant highlights the urgency and importance of the work being done in civil society to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
The World Resources Institute will receive $100 million over five years and will use the funds to promote two major initiatives. This first will develop a new satellite powered land use and carbon emissions monitoring system to measure the impact of conservation and restoration of forests, grasslands, wetlands and agricultural lands on reducing emissions. The other will encourage the electrification of school buses. The goal is to have more than 450,000 of them in service by 2030.
Green for All promotes local, state, and federal policies that put low income people to work retrofitting homes or in other “clean energy” occupations. Michelle Romero, Green for All’s national director, tells the Washington Post that the money it receives from the Earth Fund will help it double in size. It currently has six full time employees. The group falls under an Oakland, California–based umbrella group Dream Corps, which has been active in helping released prisoners find employment.
Other recipients of awards from the Earth Fund include the Climate and Clean Energy Equity Fund — $43 million, ClimateWorks Foundation — $50 million, Eden Reforestation Projects — $5 million, Energy Foundation — $30 million, NDN Collective — $12 million, Salk Institute for Biological Studies — $30 million, and the Union of Concerned Scientists — $15 million.
For Bezos, putting his money where is mouth is is commendable. Now if some of his ultra wealthy colleagues would join in the philanthropic fun, more could be accomplished sooner.