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Ultra-Wealthy Donors Place Low Priority on Environmental Causes

Education, health, art, culture and sports all rank higher than the environment among causes that get the most money from the mega rich.

(Bloomberg) -- Al Gore stood on stage in November at a private club in San Francisco to deliver his familiar spiel on climate change. His audience: 100 rich heirs from around the world.

“This is the most serious crisis humanity has faced,” the former U.S. vice president said, imploring the young people in the room to devote their resources to saving the planet. “The leadership you provide in your families can make all the difference in how capital is allocated.”

Gore found a sympathetic audience among the millennials and Gen Zers in attendance at the Deutsche Bank NextGen Innovation Summit. Their parents and grandparents may have been more skeptical.

While there’s more demand for environmentally conscious investments, many in control of mega-fortunes aren’t putting a high priority on saving the environment through their donations, according to a report published Friday by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors and Campden Wealth.

‘A Legacy’

Environmental causes accounted for just 8% of the giving portfolios of the 201 families and private philanthropists surveyed, who had an average net worth of $1.2 billion.

Education was the most popular, making up 29% of the average philanthropic portfolio. That was followed by health and art, culture and sports. Environmental concerns ranked ninth in a list of 12 motivations for giving, just after “to leave a legacy.”

That should change when the next generation assumes control of their families’ philanthropic efforts, according to the report. More than $68 trillion in wealth will be transferred to heirs and charity over the next 25 years, according to projections by Cerulli Associates.

“The emerging generation is acutely aware of the large-scale global challenges it will face, such as climate change,” Rebecca Gooch, director of research at Campden Wealth, said in a statement. “This can result in more meaningful funding for certain important causes, such as the environment.”

Climate Activist

Greta Thunberg, a 17-year-old Swedish climate activist, has sparked a movement calling for action to fight climate change and inspired millions of people, including many high schoolers, to participate in strikes. Generation Z ranks climate change as one of the most important issue facing the world, according to an Amnesty International survey of 10,000 young people.

Even Gore recognized that his audience in November was probably more informed than he’s used to.

“Given your generation, I’m betting that most of you have a lot of awareness of the climate crisis and if I cover ground that you’re familiar with, forgive me.”

To contact the reporters on this story:
Sophie Alexander in San Francisco at salexander82@bloomberg.net;
Suzanne Woolley in New York at swoolley2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Pierre Paulden at ppaulden@bloomberg.net
Steven Crabill

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