©  350.org | CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

In recent years, young climate campaigners have burst onto the world stage, adding a powerful moral dimension to calls for change. Their energy has helped to secure more ambitious commitments from decision-makers, and to create new opportunities for the environmental movement as a whole. However, youth-led climate activism receives only 0.76% of the grants made by the largest climate foundations.

This study was commissioned by a group of young climate leaders after the COP26 summit in Glasgow. It explores the funding experiences of youth-led climate justice initiatives around the world, and lays out the reasons why philanthropic donors should consider raising their level of support to youth movements.

Our research team has interviewed dozens of youth activists and youth-focused grantmakers, analysed thousands of philanthropic climate grants and collated case studies that attest to the impact that youth action has had.

The study deliberately emphasises the ideas and opinions of groups based in Latin America, Africa, Asia Pacific and Eastern Europe, alongside those in North America and Western Europe (where the majority of philanthropic funds for climate work tend to be generated and spent).

This site presents the study’s main findings as a downloadable slide deck and quotes from interviewees. It also frames a ‘call to action’ for funders, based on key messages from youth-led groups to their philanthropic donors.

Call to Action

Defining ‘climate justice’

This study understands that the impacts of climate change are not felt equally between rich and poor, or among older, younger and future generations. A ‘climate justice’ approach demands that actions taken to mitigate or adapt to climate change are centred on the most affected people and places. It takes an intersectional approach, recognising that climate risks can further depress social and economic outcomes for marginalised groups, including people on low incomes, women and girls, people of colour, and indigenous peoples. Often, youth climate justice action seeks systemic change, championing redistributive solutions that challenge dominant paradigms of power and economic growth.

350.org | CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

“The bottom line is we can talk about targets, the 1.5 and 2 degrees. But all the leaders making those pledges, I don’t think they will be there delivering them in the year 2050. So if you are talking about sustainable development, you have to engage the young people today who are going to be here in 20 or 30 years time”

(study interviewee)

Defining ‘youth-led’

This study understands ‘youth-led’ organisations to be those where young people are responsible for decision-making, and hold the majority of leadership roles. The upper age limit is suggested to be 35, in recognition that youth activism is not an equal opportunities pursuit – for many people and communities, economic, social and other factors can limit ability to participate as children or younger adults.

“Young people can create alternative ways to look at the world. We can change our organization from night to day because there is always a flow of new ideas coming in. We are the engines of our time, we are on the front line and we are discredited only for the fact of being young”

(study interviewee)