[Linkpost] Updates on the FP Climate Fund

post by jackva · 2021-05-30T17:16:41.973Z · EA · GW · 2 comments

This is a linkpost for a two-part update on the Founders Pledge Climate Fund (Part 1: Maximize impact, Part 2: Future plans) that I’ve recently published with my fellow fund manager Anu Khan. Note that this is written for the Founders Pledge blog audience so the style is quite different from the EA Forum. 

The blogs give some detailed insights into what we have been up to over the past seven months and what we are looking at going forward.  We also announce a match fund over USD 1 million which is live until mid-July (or until it is filled, if earlier).

For EAs, I believe there are three key take-aways:

  1. We believe that the Founders Pledge Climate Fund outperforms giving to the best individual climate charity, what most EAs believe to be CATF, by a significant margin.  This is so because of the impact-benefits of reacting quickly to time-sensitive opportunities (example in the post: CATF, Carbon180 funding after the election), of long-run commitments (tbd in a later post), and the ability to incubate early-stage organizations (example in the post: TerraPraxis) that then go on to crowd in significant additional funding. These are options that are not open to most individuals or require significant additional work.
  2. We thus think EAs concerned with maximizing climate impact should give to the FP Climate Fund rather than to CATF or other high-impact climate charities directly. You can do so via EA Funds as well as every.org.
  3. That said, we are somewhat unsure how to exactly quantify the impact differential and are curious about ideas; if we conduct further research on this we will publish it here. (Right now, we are operating -- conservatively -- with an impact multiplier of ~2x, i.e. a doubling over the highest-impact charity)

What is covered:

Part 1
A look into the past with three foci:

  1. Explaining the reasoning for funding neglected tech advocacy as the current highest-impact bet, while also noting the broader rationale and openness to other approaches.
  2. The benefits enabled by contributing to a fund.
  3. The past achievements of the fund.

Part 2
A look into the future, three things we are currently looking at in terms of research and grantmaking:

  1. The current US context
  2. The potential and trade-offs of climate philanthropy in emerging economies
  3. Catalytic funding incubating or strengthening organizations and how this trades off against carbon lock-in quickly deprecating future climate advocacy.



Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by JamesOz · 2021-06-02T22:02:46.844Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Hey Johannes, thanks for posting this! Always nice to see what FP are working on climate-wise. I've got a couple of questions:


  1. Where do you get your 2x figure multiplier from out of interest? 
  2. Where can we stay up to date on the work of TerraPraxis? Their website doesn't seem too up-to-date and I'm really curious to see how they scale up/what they deliver in the coming months and years.
  3. In terms of your future plans re. investing globally - have you got any promising orgs in developing countries that FP is considering funding?
Replies from: jackva
comment by jackva · 2021-06-03T19:09:14.099Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Hi James,

thanks for the questions!

Re 1:
This is a conservative guess (something like 90% confidence that it is at least 2x as impactful, possibly quite a bit more than that). We hope to more analysis on this once we have more data (e.g. the fund running longer). 

But here are some more of the underlying data and observations:

a. Our 250k grant to TerraPraxis grant was the first major (>50k) philanthropic grant to this org (incl. its predecessor, Energy for Humanity) and put it the org significantly more on the map, then being able to crowd in 1 million in funding shortly thereafter. TerraPraxis has also stressed that the initial grant gave them the ability to be way more intentional about their pursuits, so we see this as an example of trajectory-shaping grantmaking that will, over time, have a really large multiplier.  There were other similar opportunities with large multipliers.

b.  In our conversations, charities often stress the importance of funding stability / predictability, something a fund can provide but individual donors cannot as easily (this then leads to less cost-effective ways of using money, such as using part-time consultants rather than staffing up full-time staff when there is no trajectory certainty). So, there is multiplier here from deploying capital more effectively, with more planning certainty.

c. There were several instances of time-sensitive opportunities, such as after the Biden victory or - more surprisingly to many (and therefore less prepared for) the Democrats winning Georgia - where there were acute funding needs that required fast decisions (we did not take up all of those instances, sometimes others acted first but we would have if they hadn't, etc.). So, there's something here both in terms of some times being particularly important (and timing matters), but also about not overfilling funding gaps.

Re 2:
Many events that they are linking to on their website are free-to-attend (https://www.terrapraxis.org/upcoming-events). We will also update our TerraPraxis analysis in time (though this is not imminent).

Re 3:
We are not at the level of identifying orgs yet, we are earlier than that. This is more of an example of the kinds of things we are looking at, right now we are scoping out what seems best to go deeper on and this example -- finding orgs that prevent carbon lock-in in emerging economies -- appears a fairly promising angle. But the first thing to understand there before recommending orgs would be to identify localities where climate mitigation + overcoming energy poverty are not in conflict, but ideally synergistic (e.g. in geographies where renewable resources are very promising).