Climate change is unquestionably one of the defining issues of our time, but this monumental challenge does not exist in a vacuum. Race, gender, and economic inequity all play a role in how different communities contribute to and experience the reality of our climate crisis. An intersectional approach is essential to move our planet toward a sustainable, livable future for all.
Three years ago, The Hive Fund for Climate and Gender Justice was founded under just that ethos. A fiscally sponsored project at the Windward Fund, the Hive Fund raises funds and makes grants to organizations that are building power to address the intersecting climate, gender, and racial justice crises in the US and have historically lacked access to funding. Today, it has grown to support more than 100 grantee partners predominately based in the US South, where climate pollution and clean energy opportunities are high, yet philanthropic support remains low.
Arabella is proud to support the Hive Fund through our partnership with Windward, and we admire the innovation, determination, and commitment to healing and solidarity that the fund brings to its work. The Hive Fund recently released a triennial report that shares the progress its grantees have made over the past three years, as well as the fund’s analysis of the most urgent opportunities to accelerate climate, racial, and gender justice through philanthropy in the years to come. We’ve highlighted some of the key themes from the report below.
US climate funding efforts must center the South.
Put simply, there is no way to meet national and global climate commitments without paying attention to the US South. The Southeast and Texas accounted for nearly 40 percent of US climate pollution in 2021. Texas and Louisiana together are the ninth-largest climate polluter in the world, and if proposed new oil and gas developments there are built, they are set to become the seventh largest.
The South is also the birthplace of the environmental justice movement and a growing hub for renewable energy and clean tech manufacturing. Groups largely led by people of color—especially women—are remaking the political landscape and elevating climate action as a key priority across the region. These groups are poised to shape the clean energy transition in ways that upend existing power structures and foster healthy, sustainable communities.
Despite this, climate efforts in the region remain woefully underfunded by climate philanthropy. The Hive Fund’s focus on the South is a meaningful step to address this imbalance—it has given 88 percent of its grants to groups based and working in the region—but to see large-scale impact, other funders must follow suit.
A meaningful energy transition must also be equitable.
The consequences of our reliance on fossil fuels are massive, not only for our planet but for the people living in pollutant-heavy regions. Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities in the South face the brunt of the environmental and physical consequences of dirty energy, as companies overwhelmingly build polluting facilities there. These communities have also been historically disinvested, making them especially vulnerable to flooding and other effects of climate change.
Leaders from these communities have expertise, skills, and relationships—as well as unique approaches and perspectives from their lived experience—that are essential to creating durable and equitable climate solutions. As an example, the Hive Fund’s report lifted up The Roanoke Center, the nonprofit affiliate of the Roanoke Electric Cooperative in North Carolina. The state has seen a massive expansion in solar power, but the rural communities where the bulk of this infrastructure is mostly located have not seen much benefit from it. The Roanoke Center is developing new models to bring energy efficiency, renewable energy, and wealth-building opportunities to its largely rural, Black, low- and moderate-income membership, including a community solar array being leveraged with philanthropic dollars to fund energy efficiency and related upgrades that reduce energy bills.
The Roanoke Center is by no means an outlier: 75 percent of the Hive Fund’s grant dollars have gone to groups led by Black, Brown, Asian American and Pacific Islander, and Indigenous women who are building public support for climate action, developing new economic models, influencing policy, and working to ensure the transition to clean energy benefits their communities.
We must fight for the good as well as against the bad.
The need to oppose the expansion of dirty energy is as urgent as it’s ever been. Permits for new oil and gas drilling wells in the world’s highest-producing oil field surged to an all-time high in 2022, despite our knowledge of the consequences. However, as the Hive Fund emphasizes in its report, we also need to support positive alternatives.
Taking an asset-based framing to climate justice philanthropy encourages funders to value groups’ strengths and help them shape new models and new narratives, rather than simply moving from crisis to crisis. When funders provide general operating support, this frees groups up to invest in innovative, motivating approaches that can gain traction and drive change. It’s a visionary approach rather than a reactive one, and it’s something every climate justice funder can start doing today.
The Hive Fund’s triennial report is full of even more insights to help philanthropy lean into equitable funding practices and accelerate progress on climate, gender, and racial justice. To learn more, download the report here.