Climate lens

How your foundation can enhance its impact using a climate lens.

We would like to acknowledge the support of the Robert Hicks Foundation, Equity Trustees.

How your foundation can enhance its impact using a climate lens

A climate lens explores the relationship between your philanthropic interests and climate change.

By using a climate lens, you’ll see how climate change impacts upon your purpose area and ultimately the effectiveness of your grantmaking. Armed with this understanding, the impact of your philanthropy will continue to grow.

Through my participation in the Funder Initiative that ran alongside the United Nations (UN) COP 21 international climate negotiations in late 2015, I came to see clearly that climate change is not just an environmental issue.

The impacts on health and food security were obvious.

The opportunities to reduce carbon emissions in housing construction and to provide employment opportunities in a low carbon economy were also compelling. We decided to place a carbon lens across our granting.

Philanthropy has a special role to play as we can fund innovative solutions and opportunities, and we can bring our lens of reducing disadvantage to the current climate challenge.

Dr Catherine Brown, CEO, Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation

A climate lens helps you understand how climate change impacts upon the people your philanthropy supports.

Climate change has a disproportionate impact upon disadvantaged and vulnerable people with certain groups, such as Indigenous communities, people with disabilities and farmers, being more affected. The elderly and people who live in geographic areas that are more prone to bushfires and major climate events are also at greater risk.

Social justice and environmental justice are completely intertwined.

We see how climate change and the deterioration of our environment are having the greatest impact on disadvantaged and marginalised people. It’s imperative that we understand the links and don’t try to work on these issues in isolation.

Julie Edwards, CEO, Jesuit Social Services

A climate lens will help give you a more confident understanding of whether a problem you are targeting is exacerbated by climate change.

As a “threat multiplier”, climate change has wide implications. National security, food insecurity, people movements and refugee numbers are all worsened by climate change.

Military planning is progressing, but neither the world nor Australia is prepared for the serious, large-scale impacts of climate change on vulnerable communities and refugee patterns.

Admiral Chris Barrie, former Chief of the Australian Defence Force

A climate lens will help you find solutions that address your purpose area, while responding to climate change.

Many climate change solutions are beneficial for people and society more generally — these are known as “co-benefits”. Zero carbon homes have very low running costs and high comfort levels. Regional communities powered by renewable energy enjoy low cost power for their community facilities and fewer outages.

Time to act

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports that the planet has warmed by one degree Celsius since the industrial revolution.

Seven out of Australia’s ten hottest years have occurred since 2005, with the 2013-2017 period being the hottest five-year period ever recorded.

The IPCC urges action to prevent warming beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius. We have until 2030 to transform economies and the energy, transport and food systems which drive them.

We can reverse global warming!

Project Drawdown is a world-class research organisation that reviews, analyses and identifies the most viable global climate solutions and shares these with the world. Project Drawdown has reviewed all the available solutions for reversing global warming, ranking the top 100 solutions.

It concludes that it is possible to reverse global warming by implementing known solutions.

There is great potential to reduce emissions by changing electricity supply, building and transport systems. We can absorb carbon through reforestation and sustainable agriculture techniques. Educating women and girls and the availability of family planning in developing countries are also high priority strategies.

A climate lens for philanthropy

Climate change affects nearly everything philanthropy cares about. To illustrate, we selected three important philanthropic purpose areas and researched their relationship to climate change.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a framework for strategic grantmaking. The 17 SDGs are central to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The UN Agenda recognises that achieving peace and prosperity for the world community requires a focus on a range of social and economic strategies, while tackling climate change and preserving nature.

Foundations that adopt SDGs gain access to tools and data on national efforts and achievements against the goals.


Good health is arguably the most important asset an individual can have. Physical and mental health problems prevent individuals from achieving their full potential. Philanthropy invests heavily in medical research, health promotion and eradicating disease.

Climate change is a threat to health

Rising temperatures increase the geographic range of disease carrying mosquitoes, putting an additional 350 million people at risk of malaria. In developing countries, changing rainfall patterns reduce access to clean water. This increases the risk of other diseases like diarrhoea, particularly in children. Climate change also affects mental health.

In Australian cities and among outdoor workers, there is an increased risk of heatstroke or even death. This is due to more frequent heatwaves and hotter night temperatures. Vulnerable people and older people are particularly at risk. In extreme weather events, individuals are at risk of death and injury. The health system is placed under enormous pressure.

Increasing green spaces, enhancing shade through tree planting and rolling out roof top gardens can improve urban sustainability, while enhancing health and wellbeing. Vulnerable people, who cannot afford to air condition or properly heat their homes, can be targeted with special initiatives.

Food security

Food security exists when everyone within a community has enough nutritious food to live a healthy, active life. As a wealthy country, with a strong agricultural sector, food insecurity in Australia has mainly been experienced by disadvantaged, vulnerable people. Philanthropy has a long history of responding to unequal food access through supporting food relief.

The agricultural sector is on the frontline of climate impacts. Farmers are experiencing an increase in major climate events including floods and droughts. This threatens livelihoods as well as physical and mental health. Whole communities are under enormous pressure. Climate change affects rainfall patterns and average temperatures, rendering some areas unsuitable for the agriculture that has been supported in the past. The Murray-Darling Basin food bowl is at risk from lower rainfall in the southern states.

Certain types of food become unavailable when crops are destroyed by floods or cyclones. If food is harder to produce, prices go up and access to fresh food items in urban areas is affected. This means a greater proportion of the population is at risk of food insecurity. There is great potential to improve the food system while responding to climate change. Growing food locally, practicing regenerative agricultural techniques, restoring native vegetation and eradicating food waste help to increase food security. Individuals also benefit from eating less meat, and more locally grown fruit and vegetables.


Natural disasters are events which cause death, injury and damage to property and natural assets. Philanthropic support is highly valued by communities which have experienced an extreme weather event. While the general public is most aware and generous immediately after a natural disaster, philanthropy understands that it can take years for a community to rebuild and recover.

Climate change has increased the severity and frequency of extreme weather events around the world.

This includes an increase in heatwaves and higher risk of extreme fire events like the Black Saturday fires of 2009 and the Queensland floods of 2018 and 2019. Droughts of increasing severity and duration threaten food security and livelihoods in some areas, and floods damage property in others. Severe storms are more prevalent, with higher wind speeds and an increase in destructive floods.

Disasters are particularly devastating for low-income and disadvantaged people, who lack the means to protect themselves from an event and have difficulty rebuilding. Women in disadvantaged areas are also disproportionately impacted by disasters due to their social roles.

The impacts of natural disasters extend beyond direct threats to people, property and livelihood. As weather becomes more volatile, impacted communities face drastic increases in the cost of insurance which in turn drives people to migrate away from their homes in the worst hit areas.

While natural disasters themselves cannot be addressed without dealing with the root causes of climate change, building resilience and adaptation are crucial to saving lives and minimising ongoing harm. Community infrastructure should be planned and built with the aim of withstanding natural disasters. Social infrastructure, such as strong community networks, is equally important.

Climate lens case studies

The following case studies demonstrate the great outcomes all funders can achieve by applying a climate lens.

Our climate has been buoyed by some incredible wins recently – many of which were backed by philanthropy. Join us to take a behind-the-scenes look at two case studies that are making waves in terms of Australia’s climate agenda and ambition. We’ll discuss what role philanthropy played in these important outcomes and what we can learn for 2023 and beyond! 

Firstly, the Sunrise Project will discuss how AGL, Australia’s biggest polluter, bowed to investor and public pressure to move away from coal and towards the renewable revolution. Then, hear how strategic philanthropy is leveraging real support for communities as they too transition to a zero-carbon future, with Hayley Morris from the Morris Family Foundation.  

Also, Daisy Barham our Environmental Philanthropy Manager – Climate Change has just interviewed 25 leaders from across the climate sector and will give us a snapshot of what she’s heard!