Initiatives like Giving to Earth Amplify Action (GAEA) play an increasingly important role in the unwavering quest for a sustainable future. GAEA has gained notoriety as a light of hope as we negotiate the complex web of climate change, environmental degradation, and social injustice. This policy update provides a thorough examination of GAEA’s history, accomplishments, influence, operation, and most recent advancements in the ever-changing field of environmental advocacy.
Giving to Earth Amplify Action (GAEA – the acronym hearkens to ‘Gaia’, the Greek goddess of the Earth) was established by the World Economic Forum, Switzerland on January 17, 2023.
It was introduced at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting 2023, at Davos, with the theme being ‘Cooperation in a Fragmented World.’ The primary goal of this new program is to make available $3 trillion in annual funding for activities aimed at achieving net zero emissions, reversing nature loss, and restoring biodiversity by 2050.
In the context of a ‘poly-crisis’ world, WEF came up with this innovative initiative given how the most vulnerable might be affected by expected worldwide recessions, low growth and highly fragmented environmental conditions. In the past, it was felt by many that philanthropy is not leveraged well and it needs to be for a more sustainable future. This is where GAEA comes in.
GAEA sets out to develop a distinctive platform that brings together people, businesses, and organizations in a shared commitment to promote positive transformation, motivated by an increasing level of environmental concern around the world and a resounding need for long-lasting change. With its roots firmly planted in its original vision, GAEA aims to grow over time into a major global force for environmental and social improvement.
Launched in collaboration with more than forty-five philanthropic, public, and private sector partners, the new initiative aims to address the “slow and inadequate” state of current funding initiatives for significant climate and nature challenges by establishing and expanding new public, private, and philanthropic partnerships (PPPPs). The WEF claims that charitable money is uniquely suited to fill this demand because it is more adaptable, risk-tolerant, values-driven, and long-term oriented.
The GAEA initiative’s initial actions will be backed by knowledge partner McKinsey Sustainability initially. A comprehensive, four-pronged operating model has been developed over the past few months, which will consist of:
Bring out a fresh, varied combination of public, private, and non-profit actors:
- Bringing together leaders from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to identify and target climate and nature solutions where they are best positioned to play a catalytic role,
- Expand traditional convenings to include new actors (smaller sources of capital, new regions, new types of actors)
- Amplify people-focused voices and perspectives
PPPPs should be utilized to target comprehensive, people-centred solutions:
- Build a heatmap of interventions where PPPPs are well-positioned to create tipping points for climate, nature, and equity,
- Prioritize a subset of high-impact solutions that can be quickly deployed in diverse regions,
- Design PPPP funding models to support these solutions.
3-5 PPPP models will be jointly piloted and improved:
- Build targeted sets of partnerships to pilot new PPPP funding models
- Evaluate the impact and leverage of these funding models
- Refine funding models and adapt design to meet the needs of new geographies and sectors
Utilizing a PPPP operating model, scale approaches (additional areas, sectors, and actors):
- Develop an operating model and framework that matches interventions to high-impact PPPP funding models
- Bring in the next generation of public, private, and philanthropic actors
- Replicate and scale across new geographies, sectors, and actors
Following are GAEA’s five principles that will inform its governance and operating model:
- Focused on holistic solutions that consider climate, nature, and people together
- Collaborative across public, private, and philanthropic partners
- Supportive of mobilising new and diverse capital, representing different actors, geographies, and sizes – but without replacing or repurposing existing commitments
- Directed toward concrete, collaborative action, beyond a platform for discussion
- Determined and flexible to meet emerging needs of this critical decade for vital Earth systems
Emerging Issues With GAEA
As aforementioned; the biggest challenge is to leverage philanthropy in the most effectual manner. Philanthropic funding amounted to US$810 billion in 2021, but just 2 per cent went towards the climate, noted WEF. Speaking at the meeting, Neo Gim Huay, managing director of WEF’s Centre for Nature and Climate, said philanthropy was “the third P of the public-private construct to help scale and catalyse climate and nature action”.
To forge a successful path, GAEA must continue to be attentive in tackling new problems and laying out a course for the future:
- Climate adaptation: In light of the growing effects of climate change, GAEA can step up its support for plans for climate adaptation in areas at risk, such as spending on disaster preparedness and robust infrastructure.
- Ecosystem Restoration: By supporting initiatives that concentrate on protecting habitat and the preservation of endangered species, GAEA may further assist in ecosystem restoration and biodiversity conservation.
- Waste reduction, recycling, and sustainable consumption behaviours are all highlighted in the circular economy, which the project may support and promote.
- Climate Justice: The GAEA may promote climate justice, making sure that marginalized people are included in discussions about the climate and that they do not suffer disproportionately from environmental problems.
- Technological Innovation: GAEA should keep utilizing technology, such as artificial intelligence and data analytics, to improve its impact monitoring and project effectiveness if it wants to stay at the forefront of environmental action.
From the Perspective of the Global South
In the recent past, there has been a definite lag between philanthropy and the global south. Domestic foundations in developing nations received 19% of all charitable donations for development from 2016 to 2019. According to Private Philanthropy for Development 2021, their financing outpaced incoming foreign charitable flows in Mexico, the People’s Republic of China, and India.
Most charitable support, which totaled roughly USD 9.9 billion from 2016 to 2019, was sent toward upper middle-income countries. Countries with lower middle-class incomes received $9.1 billion. With USD 3 billion, a lesser percentage of philanthropic giving went to low-income nations. South Asia was the region that received the next-largest share of global and local philanthropy money, followed by Latin America and the Caribbean. The majority of international donations went to Sub-Saharan Africa.
According to a report by the OECD Centre on Philanthropy, private philanthropy is still small in comparison to official development assistance (ODA). With a total value of USD 595.5 billion for the 2016–19 period, the former was the equivalent of 7% of ODA from members of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee. The same report refers to a number of issues that limit their ability to contribute to development, including risk aversion, a lack of transparency, limited capacity to further mobilize funding for development and a lack of time and resources for in-depth study and lobbying.
In order to make GAEA successful, its philanthropy domain could factor in the following:
- Setting yearly reporting requirements and enhancing national statistical offices’ capabilities to track development money from foundations, ODA suppliers, and other sources will encourage greater transparency in the charitable sector.
- Consider reducing restrictions on international giving, such as different tax exemptions for domestic vs. international operations, or deny tax exemptions for actions where the recipients are foreign public benefit organizations. Governments should reevaluate the precise circumstances in which domestic and international philanthropy financing might receive a more equal tax status.
- Through the development of capacity for monitoring, evaluation, and learning as well as the open sharing of evaluation data, foundations can be involved in the monitoring and evaluation efforts of ODA providers.
The way forward is to find and target climate and environmental solutions, test and improve funding models, and scale up and duplicate effective strategies. Some prior initiatives were cited to set an example of what could be expected in the future:
In order to increase equitable access to low-carbon cooling and support 4.2 gigatons of averted carbon emissions by 2050, the Clean Cooling Collaborative, launched in 2016 with an initial $10 million of charitable funding, collected more than $600 million in public and private capital.
Another case mentioned involved the Government of the Seychelles, which raised a US$15 million blue bond and used US$22 million in government debt to pay for conservation efforts to safeguard 13 maritime areas. This was accomplished by combining philanthropic funding, state loan guarantees, and private investment.
In conclusion, the Giving to Earth Amplify Action (GAEA) program of the World Economic Forum is a critical effort in the global search for social justice and environmental sustainability. Its dedication to action, impact, and cooperation highlights its significance in tackling urgent concerns. GAEA will continue to be a global catalyst for positive change by staying adaptable and sensitive to developing concerns, supported by precise facts and details that highlight its exceptional contributions.
Manya Deshpande is a Research Intern at IMPRI.
Acknowledgement: The author would like to thank Chaitanya, Aqsa and Aasthaba; from the team at IMPRI for providing valuable insights in regards to this article.
Disclaimer: All views expressed in the article belong solely to the author and not necessarily to the organization.
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