The Rockefeller Foundation will commit USD1 billion over the next three years to catalyze a more inclusive, green recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Building on current efforts and long-standing programs, 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.
In addition to this unique, one-time commitment of additional resources, The Rockefeller Foundation’s efforts and energies, as a whole, will be rededicated and reoriented toward improving the lives of the world’s poorest people and addressing inequities made worse by this virus.
“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.”
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. Billions more have their potential diminished by unreliable or insufficient energy access, predominantly provided 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 they couldn’t pay their bills during the pandemic, with the toll falling disproportionately 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. This calls for bold action to address these disparities and ensure a global response that assures a more inclusive, sustainable future for all.
Green power equals more inclusive opportunity
Over the past decade, The Rockefeller Foundation has made ending energy poverty in a clean, sustainable way a priority around the world. Providing reliable electricity to communities that often receive the brunt of climate change is essential to creating the economic opportunity for them to lift themselves 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. 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. Farmers can further protect crop values with cold storage or increase their returns with post-harvest processing.
“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.”
Collaborating with global investors, international organizations, and governments, the Foundation will focus on driving historic public-private investment in infrastructure that accelerates access to clean, safe, and reliable renewable energy across Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
Increasing healthcare access to end the pandemic
Earlier this year, The Rockefeller Foundation, with support from an ideologically diverse 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-19 testing, overall, with a particular focus on vulnerable communities all across America.
Given the scale of the current crisis, the Foundation will continue to increase its investment in the U.S. and around the world 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.
“For too long, a person’s health has been determined by who they are and where they live,” said Dr. Naveen Rao, Senior Vice President of the Health Initiative at The Rockefeller Foundation. “We have an unprecedented opportunity to close the health inequity gap by driving innovation and investment to the most vulnerable communities around the world. This focus is our way of doubling down on our commitment to modernize public health and provide equitable health outcomes.”
The Rockefeller Foundation’s history of meeting the moment:
The Foundation, which received “Aaa/AAA” ratings for its $700 million of Series 2020 Taxable Bonds by Moody’s and S&P at the end of September, will 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.
The Foundation has a storied history of taking decisive and timely actions that have altered the course of events. In its first 40 years, the Foundation started the modern field of public health, along with playing a key role in fighting the 1918 influenza pandemic, helping to eradicate hookworm in the United States, and seeding the development of the Yellow Fever vaccine. During the next 40 years, the Foundation launched the Green Revolution that transformed farming and kept hundreds of millions from starvation.
All of this was done while also investing in innovations that built telescopes and cyclotrons and convening the very best in their fields to solve the world’s most pressing problems, including the late U.S. Supreme Court of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Over the course of the 20th century, the Foundation also helped create U.S. Social Security, supported America’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and the groundbreaking Voter Education Project, led by civil rights icon the late U.S. Congressman John Lewis. In addition, it changed the course of philanthropy with “impact investing” in 2007.