Rockefeller Foundation pledges $1bn for green recovery
The Rockefeller Foundation has pledged $1bn for green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Image credit: 123rf.

The Rockefeller Foundation has announced it will commit $1 billion over the next three years to catalyse a more inclusive, green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The foundation outlined in a media release that building on current efforts and long-standing programmes, it will focus on two key areas:

  • Catalysing billions of dollars in private and concessional investments to scale distributed renewable energy across developing countries;
  • 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.

Additionally, the Rockefeller Foundation says its efforts will be rededicated and reoriented toward improving the lives of the world’s poorest people and addressing inequities made worse by this virus.

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“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 realise 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, says the Rockefeller Foundation.

Green power equals more inclusive opportunity

The Rockefeller Foundation highlights that over the past decade, it 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, says 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, according to the Rockefeller Foundation. 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,” Dayal added.

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.