The Rockefeller Foundation Commits Over USD 1 Billion To Advance Climate Solutions

Friday, September 15, 2023

The Rockefeller Foundation Commits Over USD 1 Billion To Advance Climate Solutions

NEW YORK | September 15, 2023 ― Ahead of New York City Climate Week, The Rockefeller Foundation announced that it will invest over USD 1 billion over the next five years to advance the global climate transition and help ensure everyone can participate in it. The new strategy, which is the first of its kind in The Rockefeller Foundation’s 110-year history, has two central pillars: bring the world together to address climate change in a more concerted manner and seize the climate transition’s opportunities and benefits for the billions of people who have historically been denied them. As part of this new commitment, The Rockefeller Foundation will also prioritize achieving a science-based Net Zero standard for its operations globally.

“The Foundation has made many big bets in its history, and we believe climate change’s threats and the climate transition’s opportunities—especially for the most vulnerable—justify what will be the biggest and most impactful bet in our history,” said Dr. Rajiv J. Shah, President of The Rockefeller Foundation. “The strategy is designed around a simple idea: humanity does not have to choose between addressing climate change and advancing human opportunity, we simply have to work in new ways and at a bigger scale and with new people and in new places to make sure everyone cannot just survive the climate crisis but thrive.”

The Foundation’s philanthropic history began with an original endowment of $100 million from John D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil, which once controlled more than 90% of petroleum production in the United States. Building upon the $24 billion of philanthropic capital it has invested since 1913, this new strategy aligns with The Rockefeller Foundation’s vision of encouraging scaled investments and seeking creative and science-based solutions to intractable problems. It also builds upon, and was informed by, a series of steps The Rockefeller Foundation took in recent years. This includes committing to divesting its endowment from existing fossil fuel interests while refraining from future fossil fuel investments, making it the largest U.S. foundation to embrace the rapidly growing divestment movement.

Betting Big on Impact

Because climate funding is predominantly directed at mitigation or adaptation and not the intersection that prioritizes both people and planet, The Rockefeller Foundation’s strategy reflects efforts to (1) integrate climate across its four core focus areas: power, health, food, and finance; and (2) catalyze global action for solutions that will speed transformations within these systems.

This includes providing additional resources, advocacy, and strategic support to a series of Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet (GEAPP) initiatives, co-launched with the IKEA Foundation and Bezos Earth Fund during the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 2021 (COP26). Then, The Rockefeller Foundation committed $500 million, which remains its largest single investment. Today, in support of the new strategy, the Foundation is announcing the following resources and support for several collaborations with GEAPP:

  • $5 million to operationalize the global Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) Consortium. The Rockefeller Foundation will support the BESS consortium’s secretariat. GEAPP has committed an initial $22.5 million (with significant additional funding planned) with the aim of bringing reliable electricity access to more than three billion people globally, enabling the integration of an estimated 400 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy and unlocking 90GW of peak demand storage capacity.
  • $1 million to jumpstart the development of 1,000 minigrids in Zambia. While plans are still in process, The Rockefeller Foundation, in collaboration with Sustainable Energy for All (SEforAll) and partners is supporting the Republic of Zambia’s initial 100 minigrids, with the goal of completing 1,000 over the next three to five years to reach roughly one million people and businesses.
  • Leveraging Foundation expertise to help develop metro-grids in the Democratic Republic of Congo. As a result of deep engagement by The Rockefeller Foundation and $8 million of quasi-equity funding provided by GEAPP, Nuru, which is a local metro-grid developer, recently announced $70 million in Series B funding.

The Rockefeller Foundation also has a long track record of investing in convenings to spark solutions and innovation. Under this new strategy, The Rockefeller Foundation will leverage virtual and in-person convenings at its Bellagio Center, which launched in 1959 to bring together the very best in their fields, and its new convening space in New York City, which opened in May 2023, to bring together partners needed for climate action. Additional examples of the climate strategy being announced today include:

  • $35 million for climate-finance investments, including $5 million for grants, to accelerate nature-based solutions, decarbonization, and carbon removal strategies globally. The Rockefeller Foundation recently provided its first investment: $5 million into a fund created by Mombak, a Brazilian startup that is supporting the largest biodiverse reforestation effort for carbon removal in the region.
  • $20 million for Invest in Our Future to accelerate climate-smart infrastructure development in the United States. Invest in Our Future (IOF), a U.S. donor collaborative to ensure that the clean energy economy strengthen communities across the country, is facilitated through RF Catalytic Capital (RFCC), a public charity founded by The Rockefeller Foundation in 2020 to pool public, private, and philanthropic resources for greater impact. To date, IOF it has raised more than $180 million – with additional funding and new developments in the pipeline for this year.

Over the coming months, The Rockefeller Foundation will announce a series of new grants and initiatives. This will include, but not limited to, accelerating opportunities to protect the health of those most vulnerable to, and least responsible for, climate change, and mainstreaming health priorities into the climate negotiations as a member of the COP28 Health Day Steering Committee. In addition to building upon early lessons learned from its 2022 Good Food Strategy, the $105 million investment to increase access to healthy and sustainable foods for 40 million underserved people globally, The Rockefeller Foundation will also hold a series of convenings focused on food solutions that are good for people and planet in the lead up to COP28, when there will be additional announcements.

Net Zero Operations

The Rockefeller Foundation reopened its headquarters in New York City in March 2023, which was renovated to comply with LEED gold certification and WELL Accreditation. As part of its climate strategy, The Rockefeller Foundation will take additional steps toward reaching Net Zero for its all of facilities, which includes its headquarters and locations in Washington, D.C.; Nairobi, Kenya; Bangkok, Thailand; and Bellagio, Italy, and across all other areas of its operations worldwide...

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