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The Rockefeller Foundation commits $1 billion for green recovery from pandemic

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The Rockefeller Foundation will commit $1 billion over the next three years to catalyze green recovery from COVID-19. The Foundation will focus on two key areas: catalyzing billions of dollars in private and concessional investments to scale distributed renewable energy across developing countries; and ensuring more equitable access to COVID-19 tests and vaccines, science-based tools, and data to fight the pandemic, while strengthening public health systems to prevent future outbreaks.

Prior to the pandemic, half the world’s population lacked access to essential health services, and more than 800 million people worldwide lacked access to electricity due to unreliable or insufficient energy access, predominantly by carbon-emitting fuels. The energy accessibility gap has further widened because of the pandemic. This year alone, more than 100 million people have seen their electricity access severed because of unpaid bills during the pandemic, with the toll falling on the poor and most vulnerable. The World Bank also estimates that the combined impact of climate change and the damage done by COVID-19 will push 132 million people into poverty.

The Rockefeller Foundation aims to make ending energy poverty in a clean, sustainable way a global priority. Providing reliable electricity to communities that often receive the brunt of climate change is essential to lift these groups out of poverty. As a result of pioneering breakthroughs in distributed renewable energy technologies, it is now possible to end energy poverty in ten years without accelerating carbon emissions, said the Foundation. Compared to conventional grid-based electrification, scaling these technologies to provide green energy to half a billion people would save 1.5 billion tons of CO2 emissions over the next decade. Access to energy can also boost the irrigation, crop yields and productivity of local agriculture.

“Over the past decade, our Smart Power Initiative’s investments have improved the lives of almost 500,000 people in India, Myanmar, and parts of sub-Saharan Africa, so we know this can work,” said Ashvin Dayal, Senior Vice-President of the Power & Climate Initiative at The Rockefeller Foundation.

“By refining the business case for distributed renewable electrification and deepening our technical knowledge of mini grid systems and their impact on people’s lives and livelihoods, we paved the way for the launch of a partnership with Tata Power, TP Renewable Microgrid (TPRMG). This effort is expected to invest $1 billion by 2026, deploying up to 10,000 mini grids that will provide clean energy to 5 million households, create 10,000 new green jobs, support 100,000 rural enterprises, deliver irrigation to 400,000 farmers, and in total, provide access to reliable power for more than 25 million people across the communities they serve.”

Through collaboration with investors, organizations and governments, the Foundation will focus on driving public-private investment in infrastructure that accelerates access to clean, safe, and reliable renewable energy across Africa, Asia and Latin America.

“There’s no going back to the past, to before-COVID. We need to reimagine the future we want,” said Dr. Rajiv J. Shah, President of the Rockefeller Foundation. “To meet this moment, we must leverage all our resources and relationships to build an equitable, sustainable future, where everyone has the opportunity to realize their full potential and climate disaster is avoided. The time to act is right now to make sure vulnerable children and families are included in the pandemic response and recovery.” 

Increasing healthcare access to end the pandemic

Earlier this year, The Rockefeller Foundation, with support from a team of top scientists, industry, technologists and economists, launched a U.S. National COVID-19 Testing & Tracing Action Plan. It also collaborated with federal, state and local leaders to increase access to COVID testing, with a focus on vulnerable communities across America.

Given the scale of the current crisis, the Foundation will continue to increase its investment to expand access to screening tests, treatments, and vaccines when they become available. Better data can identify communities at high risk for chronic and infectious disease and other health issues, directing resources to where they are needed most and targeting preventative interventions more precisely. Using predictive analytics, among other technologies, can better prevent a disease outbreak from becoming a pandemic.

How it will raise the money

The Foundation aims to leverage both its endowment and the proceeds from its first-ever bond offering for charitable purposes to finance much of this work. The billion-dollar commitment marks the single largest in the Foundation’s 107-year history, which has distributed more than $22 billion since its inception. While this is the first time the Foundation will use money for grants outside the original bequest of its founder, John D. Rockefeller, it aligns with his vision to encourage scaled investment and seek and utilize creative and science-based solutions to intractable problems.