Public Resource
Soil to Sky: Climate Solutions That Work
Matthew Elliot, Michael Berger & Helia Bidad, California Environmental Associates on behalf of CLIMA Fund

This report aggregates research on the use of grassroots solutions in addressing climate and connects the dots between seemingly “small” grassroots solutions, carbon mitigation, and building rights-based resilience for the long-term. It brings together the best available research  to affirm that funders who have traditionally invested in top-down strategies to the climate crisis can also make lasting, effective, and scalable investments in grassroots-driven responses. 

Grassroots solutions are those led by communities local to the problems they seek to solve, rather than those led by international policy or corporate actors. They are led by communities instead of industry leaders, institutional environmental NGOs, and academic panelists. They require working at a local scale that has often been considered out of reach for large, international philanthropies. Furthermore, they are perceived as being riskier, harder to measure, and labor-intensive. While these factors make grassroots solutions difficult investments to justify on a one-off basis for large funders, the evidence shows that these approaches ultimately yield the most success in the stated aims of global climate philanthropies: reducing emissions, promoting alternatives, securing human rights, improving public health, increasing global education, and ensuring community resiliency in the face of a changing world. Given the limited investment so far by climate philanthropies, the evidence suggest that grassroots solutions have a high potential for even greater and more rapid results with additional support. 

The report concludes:

  • We are losing the battle against climate change
  • Community-based solutions are essential to achieving a low-carbon, equitable world
  • Grassroots organizations are often more effective and efficient than large, international NGOs
  • Beyond mitigation of emissions, grassroots strategies empower the people most affected by climate change
  • Climate philanthropies have been hesitant to embrace community-level solutions
  • The question is now “how,” but “how soon:” These strategies have the capacity to yield massive emissions-reductions potential, but they take time. The sooner that these solutions are embraced, the more likely they are to reach their full potential in time to avoid catastrophic change.