Since its inception in 2007, Cool Earth has been obsessed with cost-effectiveness. It may have something to do with being founded by a businessman and a politician. Either way, making sure that donors got the most impact possible has been the cornerstone of our operations from day one.
It helps that we are small. And that our mission is single-minded.
Climate change is real and it’s happening now. Deforestation is a major contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions and therefore to climate change.
Reducing deforestation and managing forests sustainably has been recognised by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as among the “…most cost-effective mitigation options…” for reducing emissions1. That’s because forest biomass stores large amounts of carbon – approximately 272 tonnes per acre2. This carbon is released into the atmosphere when forest is destroyed3.
There’s a wealth of research that proves that community-led conservation is more effective than other methods at keeping trees standing4.
It’s what makes us different and it’s why Giving What We Can, a leading charity evaluator also obsessed with cost-effectiveness, has rated us top for mitigating climate change.
Effective Altruism is a growing community of people who want to ensure that their significant donations to charity go to the most effective charities and have the greatest possible impact. Put simply, they are a driving force in making charities better.
Cool Earth is delighted that one of the leading figures in Effective Altruism identified us as the best charity to give to if you want your money to have the most impact on climate change. That was the conclusion reached by William Macaskill, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Oxford University, in his 2016 book Doing Good Better.
William is co-founder of Giving What We Can, an organisation that many of the leading philanthropists look to for advice on what causes to support. Having examined more than one hundred organisations that claim to reduce emissions they concluded that:
“Cool Earth is the most cost-effective charity we have identified to date which works on mitigating climate change through direct action, and also the overall most cost-effective climate change charity which can reliably reduce emissions without risk”
This conclusion was based on a thorough assessment of Cool Earth’s partnerships and accounts, looking at factors such as the total amount spent, the total number of acres of rainforest protected and the volume of carbon emissions prevented. Cool Earth reduces greenhouse gas emissions through direct protection of forests at a rate of $1.34 per tonne of CO2-equivalent which is the lowest figure of any of the similar organisations that they researched5.
The assessment process has been transformative for Cool Earth.
It confirmed the impact of our approach but, more importantly, highlighted areas where we could improve. These included being more transparent and publishing more data. In particular, becoming more proficient at satellite monitoring of the canopy and remote sensing of biodiversity have become a key focus in order to record our impact, and assess our model.
Overall, the evaluation also made us think differently about effectiveness and how we should strive as an organisation to get the most impact from our donors’ funds. It also exposed our work to a whole new community of donors and the financial support we’ve received from the Effective Altruism community has streamlined our model and prepared us for rapid growth.
By supporting Cool Earth, you can be certain that you’re making the biggest impact possible to prevent climate change. And because we’re always learning and refining our model, we’ll become even more cost-effective as time goes on.
“AR5 Synthesis Report – Climate Change 2014 – IPCC.” 2015. 15 Apr. 2016
Saatchi, Sassan S et al. “Benchmark map of forest carbon stocks in tropical regions acroKearsley, Elizabeth et al. “Conventional tree height–diameter relationships significantly overestimate aboveground carbon stocks in the Central Congo Basin.” Nature communications 4 (2013).
Vincent, John B et al. “Forest carbon in lowland Papua New Guinea: Local variation and the importance of small trees.” Austral ecology 40.2 (2015): 151-159.
Porter-Bolland, Luciana et al. “Community managed forests and forest protected areas: An assessment of their conservation effectiveness across the tropics.” Forest ecology and management 268 (2012): 6-17.