The Clinton Climate Initiative is a project of the Clinton Foundation, begun in 2006 to combat climate change through energy conservation. In 2016, the initiative dramatically shrank after restrictions on foreign gifts were imposed after Hillary Clinton announced her 2016 candidacy for the presidency.
In a 2007 interview with Jonathan Rauch in The Atlantic, former President Bill Clinton “said he had been concerned about climate change for years, but that a hostile Congress and cheap oil prevented him from doing much about it when he was in office.” Clinton said that one day in 2005 he decided to replace all the light bulbs in his home in Chappaqua, New York with compact florescent bulbs but could not find any. This got him started on deciding what to do about the environment, and in December 2005, Clinton Foundation staff member Ira Magaziner proposed a global warming project, which began operations in January 2006. 1
Magaziner heard of a plan by deputy mayor of London Nicky Gavron to create “municipal procurement alliances” between cities and convinced Clinton to make this a priority. By the end of 2006, the Clinton Climate Initiative had 40 staffers. 2
In a 2009 interview, Magaziner said the Clinton Climate Initiative had three goals: to “partner with large cities to reduce energy use and create sources of clean energy,” to create “large-scale solar power” and carbon capture programs to reduce emissions from power plants that used fossil fuels, and to reduce global deforestation. 3
Bill Clinton, in a 2009 op-ed, wrote that “some still believe” that restricting fossil fuel use “is a recipe for economic calamity. In fact, meeting the climate change challenge offers us a tremendous opportunity to restore America’s economy and establish a new source of sustainable, good-paying jobs.” 4
The New York Daily News reported in 2006 that” one insider” claimed that Clinton “has said privately to several people” that while Clinton thought An Inconvenient Truth, a documentary narrated by his former Vice President Al Gore, was “interesting and important” that Gore “doesn’t put forth a plan. Clinton has a plan.” 5
By August 2006, 22 cities including Chicago, Los Angeles, London, and Mexico City, joined the global consortium the Clinton Climate Initiative inspired to provide a large market for energy-efficient products. 6 In 2007, the Clinton Foundation announced that five global banks, including JPMorgan Chase, UBS, and Deutsche Bank, had a billion-dollar pool of capital available for cities that wanted to use the money for retrofitting programs, with the money to be repaid from lower energy costs after the retrofits were complete. 7
By 2009, the Clinton Climate Initiative took credit for inspiring 250 retrofitting programs in 20 cities. Arah Schuur, head of the initiative’s retrofitting program, told the New York Times in 2009 that the initiative took credit for Houston’s effort to retrofit 271 municipal buildings. 8 The largest retrofit was done in the Empire State Building, where the Clinton Foundation connected Johnson Controls, Jones Lang LaSalle, and the Rocky Mountain Institute on the retrofit, completed in 2010. In 2012, the Empire State Building announced that it had saved $2.4 million because of energy-efficient new windows and a new power plant. 9
In 2007, the Clinton Foundation bought 2.5 million light-emitting diode (LED) light bulbs and distributed them in Europe. Lennis Lighting CEO Warner Phillips said the cost of his 40-watt equivalent light bulb fell from $40 to $35 because of the Clinton Foundation purchases. 10 The Clinton Climate Initiative provided technical assistance and some funding for an effort by Los Angeles that replaced 130,000 bulbs in city streetlights with LED lights from 2009 through 2013. 11
In 2011, the Clinton Climate Initiative formed an alliance with C40, a similar organization created by then-New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Clinton Foundation consultant Douglas Band told the New York Times that Clinton and Bloomberg “have enormous respect and trust for each other, so they are comfortable developing a partnership like this.” The allied organizations were projected to have a budget of $15 million and a staff of 70. 12
Changes Before 2016 Elections
In 2015, the Clinton Foundation said that it would only accept contributions from six foreign governments — those of Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, and the United Kingdom — in order to avoid conflict of interest charges in Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. The foundation acknowledged that multi-year contracts agreed to before 2015 would continue, such as a 2014-2017 $12 million grant from Australia’s Department of the Environment that funded Clinton Climate Initiative efforts to monitor emissions in Kenya. 13
In 2016, the Clinton Foundation announced it would ban all donations from foreign governments should Hillary Clinton become president. InsideClimate News reported that the Clinton Climate Initiative, which had a $8.3 million budget in 2014, would be “decimated” by the restriction. Among the foreign government-funded programs the initiative conducted was one by the Norwegian government for “a reported $5 million” to “help oil-dependent island nations switch to renewable energy.” 14
In November 2016, Germany’s Environment Ministry, responding to an investigation by Die Welt, asserted that a 4.5 million euro grant to the Clinton Climate Initiative constituted project funding and not a donation to the Clinton Foundation. The ministry said a transfer of funds to the Clinton Foundation in the summer of 2016 was a part of a multiyear project begun in 2013 to fight African deforestation. 15
From 2006 through 2011, Kathryn Murdoch, daughter-in-law of right-leaning media mogul Rupert Murdoch, was director of strategy and communications for the Clinton Climate Initiative. 16 In 2006, News Corporation, Rupert Murdoch’s company, made a $500,000 donation to the Clinton Foundation to support the Clinton Climate Initiative. 17
The New York Times Magazine reported in 2019 that Kathryn Murdoch had tried to arrange a meeting between Rupert Murdoch and Hillary Clinton during her presidential run so that Murdoch would either endorse Clinton, as he had endorsed British Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair, or declare neutrality in the 2016 presidential race. The Times reported that Murdoch called Hillary Clinton and she quickly returned his call and declined to meet with him. 18
- Jonathan Rauch, “This Is Not Charity,” The Atlantic, December 2007.
- Jonathan Rauch, “This Is Not Charity,” The Atlantic, December 2007.
-  Ira Magaziner, “The Clinton Foundation: Global Operations, Brown Journal of World Affairs, Summer/Spring 2009.
- Bill Clinton, Debate Has Evolved Since ‘90s,” Roll Call, November 9, 2009.
- George Rush and Joanna Rush Molloy, “Earth Savers Bill & Al Are Poles Apart,” New York Daily News, September 1, 2006.
- Juliet Eilperin, “22 Cities Join Clinton Anti-Warming Effort,” Washington Post, August 2, 2006.
- “Billions of Dollars Pledged to Cut Urban Energy Use,” New York Times, May 16, 2007.
- “A Cheap Fix for Climate: Retrofitting,” New York Times, September 13, 2009
- “Empire State Building Saves Millions of Dollars In First Year of Energy Efficient Plan,” press release from Empire State Building, May 31, 2012.
- Leora Broydo Vestel, “Racing to Build A Better Light Bulb,” New York Times, May 6, 2009.
- William O’Connor, Los Angeles Has Swapped Out 140,000 Street Lights For Highly Efficient LEDS,” The Daily Beast, June 20, 2013.
- Michael Barbaro, “Bloomberg and Clinton Are Merging Their Climate Groups,” New York Times, April 14, 2011.
- James V. Grimaldi, “Clinton Charity to Keep Foreign Donors,” Wall Street Journal April 16, 2015.
-  Marianne Lavelle, “Climate Programs Will Be Cut In Clinton Foundation Restructuring,” Inside Climate News, September 20, 2016, https://insideclimatenews.org/news/20092016/hillary-bill-clinton-foundation-scandal-climate-change-programs-funding-global-initiative-emails/ (accessed September 19, 2016)
- Jefferson Chase, “Environment Ministry Refutes Clinton Foundation Report,” Deutsche Welle, November 28, 2016, https://www.dw.com/en/environment-ministry-refutes-clinton-foundation-report/a-36556480 (accessed September 19, 2022)
- “Kathryn Murdoch,” Quadrivium Foundation, http://www.qdvm.org/kathrynmurdoch (accessed September 19, 2022).
- John Cassidy, “Murdoch’s Game,” New Yorker, October 16, 2006.
- Jonathan Mahler and Jim Rutenberg, “Planet Fox,” New York Times Magazine, April 7, 2019.