Climate and Volunteering

Climate and Volunteering

What is the issue and why is it relevant to volunteering?

The current climate crisis requires multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder responses that recognise the diversity of contexts and issues faced by countries around the globe.  

Volunteer interventions at local and global levels continue to drive environmental outcomes and climate action in the 21st century, whether they be spontaneous community-based actions or the provision of highly specialized support at the global level.  




What are the challenges and opportunities?

Some of the issues, challenges and opportunities around climate action and volunteering include: 

  • Providing the infrastructure to maximise the potential of climate action volunteers, including digital infrastructure and participation spaces 
  • Conducting further research on the engagement of volunteers in climate action
  • Ensuring conscientious planning by governments and non-governmental organisations to recognize, encourage and sustain local, community-based environmental actions 
What is UNV doing?

Across the State of the World’s Volunteerism Reports, research and evidence have been collected on volunteering for climate and environment.

What does the evidence say?

Volunteerism is a universal, dynamic and creative resource for climate action.  Volunteerism has been driving environment and climate action for decades and made communities more resilient for millennia (UNV, 2017). 


Climate justice and realizing human rights

  • The use of human rights frameworks to ensure accountabilities on climate action from public and private stakeholders has been slowly gaining pace.  Expert legal volunteers and community advocates have long helped advance legal change through strategic litigation on a wide range of rights issues including on environment and climate change. 
  • Several global, regional, and national level climate justice movements have surfaced which mainly depend on young volunteers and students to stay active. These range from global climate #FridaysForFuture school strikes to direct civil disobedience campaigns like Extinction Rebellion.
  • Volunteering for climate action is not risk-free. With a global and local surge in climate action, many volunteers are being persecuted as civic space shrinks and environmental defenders are being killed in record numbers.

Knowledge and data gathering

  • Many volunteers globally are involved in mapping and monitoring climate and environmental data.  These new efforts have been triggered by growing awareness and often enabled by powerful and cheap new mobile and open technologies.
  • Mobilizing volunteers to map and monitor environmental data is cost-effective and provides people with opportunities to determine their own priorities for climate mitigation and adaption.
  • In addition to data gathering, a number of climate hackathons have been held by public and private bodies in recent years, to address specific issues such as how to support journalists to report on climate stories, to enabling local people to address their own context-specific climate challenges across multiple cities around the world. 
  • In the digital space volunteers can also help address the spread of disinformation on climate issues online and particularly on social media.

Participatory policy development

  • By tackling global climate challenges, volunteers have a unique opportunity to link up with wider initiatives to give their communities access to new networks and resources. 
  • New forms of civic participation around climate action create space for non-partisan dialogue, improving the use of both scientific evidence and citizen perspectives in policymaking. 


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