Rockefeller Foundation issues debt to finance $1 billion pledge to green energy and Covid Relief


Alliance magazine


The Rockefeller Foundation has announced a $1 billion pledge to catalysing a more inclusive and green recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, focusing on ensuring equitable access to Covid-19 healthcare and building stronger healthcare systems that are more resilient to future outbreaks and address the under-appreciated energy poverty that impedes recovery.

Rockefeller is funding the pledge by issuing debt, a strategy that will free up hundreds of millions of charitable dollars without digging into its endowment. Rockefeller is the latest Foundation to use this financial move – one common in the government and corporate world, but rare in the non-profit sector – after the Ford, MacArthur, Kellogg, Mellon, and Doris Duke Foundations announced a similar plan in June.

The bond offering, which currently is taking advantage of historically low interest rates, is probably a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity, according to Dominick Impemba, Rockefeller’s chief financial officer.

Rockefeller hope that the dual-focus of their project – catalysing 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 – improve lives, address inequities, and support new and better systems built as the world recovers from the pandemic.

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.

‘There’s no going back to the past, to before-Covid. We need to reimagine the future we want’, said Rajiv 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.’

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