Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ $10 billion environmental philanthropy, the Bezos Earth Fund, has pledged to donate $203.7 million to climate groups by the end of this year in the first round of grants under its newly minted CEO, Andrew Steer.
The latest grants, a smaller funding round than the Earth Fund’s initial donations last year, which totaled $791 million across 16 nonprofits, focus on grassroots climate justice groups. As part of Wednesday’s funding round, the Earth Fund committed to giving $150 million by the end of this year to organizations supporting the Justice40 Initiative, a project launched by President Joe Biden that aims to ensure disadvantaged communities receive at least 40% of the benefit from federal climate-change and clean-energy programs.
So far, the Earth Fund has disbursed $20 million of that pledge, to four nonprofits. The Earth Fund also has granted $53.7 million to organizations involved in climate change messaging and helping businesses transition to using cleaner sources of energy.
The Earth Fund’s first round of funding was met with criticism that Bezos was channeling huge grants to big-name organizations, such as the Nature Conservancy, that take a largely technocratic approach to battling climate change.
“We appreciate that the Bezos Earth Fund has made a strong commitment to advancing climate justice with the understanding that those advances cannot be achieved without supporting grassroots front-line organizations,” Peggy Shepard, co-founder and executive director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice, which received $6 million in Wednesday’s funding round, said in a statement. The group, which conducts outreach about climate change in low-income communities and communities of color, plans to use the Earth Fund money to help it monitor whether the Justice40 initiative is achieving its goals.
An Earth Fund spokesperson did not immediately respond to questions about how organizations can access the $130 million it has pledged to distribute by the end of the year. The closely held nonprofit has previously been tight-lipped about how organizations can apply for additional funding.