The Rockefeller Foundation Commits USD 1 Billion To Advance Climate Solutions
Listen to this story:
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.
- Part of first-ever 5-year strategy launched during Climate Week NYC
- Includes pursuing Net Zero greenhouse gas emission for its global operations
“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.
While its Roadmap to Net Zero is still in process, The Rockefeller Foundation completed the accounting of its carbon footprint for the 2022 baseline year, which found the philanthropic organization emits an estimated 12,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases annually across its operations. With this Roadmap, which will be finalized in early 2024, The Rockefeller Foundation aims not only to set realistic targets and strategies for decarbonization across Scopes 1, 2 and, 3, but also to collaborate with, and serve as a resource for, others within its ecosystem by sharing its learning and progress along the way.
“The climate crisis is humanity’s gravest threat—and for a Foundation dedicated to its well-being, this strategy is both logical and necessary,” said Adm. (ret.) James Stavridis, Chair of The Rockefeller Foundation Board of Trustees. “Right now, only about 2% of philanthropic capital worldwide is focused on climate change; everyone here at the Foundation is 100 percent committed to doing what we can to help.”
Statements of Support
- “I often talk about delivering a record of progress on climate. The Rockefeller Foundation has delivered a record – leading when the Bridgetown Initiative was first born, leading when talking reform of the Bretton Woods institutions was just an errant academic exercise, leading when energy access and energy transition were lonely ambitions. I welcome the Rockefeller Foundation’s new strategy on climate – it underscores the urgency of the mission and brings with it Rockefeller’s grit, smarts, determination, risk capital, and sense of justice. With time running out to confront the climate crisis, I can think of few better allies than the Rockefeller Foundation.”
― Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley.
- “Philanthropy has the ability to play a uniquely catalytic role in addressing pressing challenges. I’m thrilled that The Rockefeller Foundation is putting the climate crisis at the core of what it does and how it operates. By doing so, they’re answering the most urgent call of our lifetimes, and I hope other foundations will be inspired to follow.”
― U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry
- “Humanity faces an existentialist threat from the triple planetary crisis. Without a strong climate strategy, we will continue to borrow from Earth’s finite resources, leaving future generations in debt. This isn’t fiscal prudence, but environmental bankruptcy. A robust climate strategy helps us invest wisely, ensuring a liveable, prosperous planet for future generations. I commend The Rockefeller Foundation for this important initiative to safeguard humanity.”
― Siddharth Chatterjee, UN Resident Coordinator, United Nations in China
- “From reducing food loss and waste around the world to promoting a green and equitable recovery from COVID-19 to building the next generation of digital products that drive climate action, World Resources Institute has been proud to partner with The Rockefeller Foundation to address some of the most important issues of the day. We’re pleased to see the Foundation bringing its deep expertise, innovative funding and convening power to the global fight against climate change through its new strategy. With Rockefeller’s leadership, we can all design and deliver the Big Bets needed to transform communities in favor of people, nature, and climate. We look forward to engaging with the Foundation in the years and decades ahead.”
― Ani Dasgupta, President and CEO, World Resources Institute (WRI)
- “The Rockefeller Foundation has consistently championed frontline communities over the years, placing individuals at the heart of its initiatives. It’s heartening to witness the Foundation’s commitment to a similarly decentralized approach in its climate strategy. With the monumental task of addressing climate change ahead of us, having The Rockefeller Foundation as a collaborative partner is invaluable for shaping a sustainable climate economy.”
― Saleemul Huq, Director, International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD), Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB)
- “International Funders for Indigenous Peoples welcomes The Rockefeller Foundation’s attention to the polycrisis impacting humanity. Climate change, growing inequality, and the historical exclusion and violation of Indigenous Peoples’ rights are issues that funders must address. A climate strategy that puts frontline communities and Indigenous Peoples at the center is critical for its effectiveness. An inclusive strategy that takes into account root causes and justice is an essential path to follow in philanthropy.” ― Lourdes Inga, Executive Director, International Funders for Indigenous Peoples
- “The Rockefeller Foundation’s climate strategy will pave the way for inclusivity for those Indigenous Communities, who will be most negatively impacted by increasing climatic fluctuations, by providing them with a number of vital resources. I have seen first-hand as an academic scholar and traditional Hopi farmer the impacts of climate change on my own community in Northern Arizona. We lack the resources, such as natural resource data, an independent energy source, and healthy foods for our people to mitigate those issues.”
― Dr. Michael Kotutwa Johnson, Assistant Specialist-Indigenous Resiliency, School of Natural Resources and the Environment, Indigenous Resilience Center, University of Arizona
- “Over the past couple years, The Rockefeller Foundation has helped lead the way in identifying reforms to make the international financial architecture fit for purpose for future generations. With this commitment, the Foundation will help ensure those reforms, and the others needed to fund essential action on climate and development, become a reality.”
― Afsaneh Mashayekhi Beschloss, Founder and CEO, RockCreek; Trustee, The Rockefeller Foundation
- “Climate change transcends borders, leaving no corner of the world untouched. It is a shared challenge that affects us all, demanding a strategy that is as boundless as the crisis itself. The Rockefeller Foundation’s new climate strategy, a blueprint with a vision that looks beyond borders, serves as a unifying force that leverages the strength of partnerships, innovation, and a steadfast commitment to equity.”
― Ledama Masidza, Ambassador, Oceans Alive Trust
- “May this climate strategy strengthen the adaptation and mitigation efforts of women workers and help us all in Building an Economy of Nurturance.”
― Reema Nanavaty, Director, SEWA (Self-Employed Women’s Association)
- “Climate action must be led by stakeholders in low- and middle-income countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean. The Rockefeller Foundation’s climate strategy will help leaders in these regions to develop and scale innovative solutions to their most pressing challenges, ensuring opportunities and support for all citizens, especially the most vulnerable.”
― Ndidi Okonkwo Nwuneli, Co-Founder and Executive Chair, Sahel Consulting: Agriculture & Nutrition Ltd.; Trustee, The Rockefeller Foundation
- “At the age one, I became a climate refugee. My single mother was forced by years of unexpected and unexplained droughts and failed crops to migrate from our rural family home to Nairobi, the big city. My mother came with high hopes; but uneducated and alone, she ended up in Kibera, Africa’s largest slum where I grew up. My story is one of millions; climate refugees are finding themselves filling Africa’s urban slums – without hope, jobs, housing, or opportunities. Solving today’s climate crisis is essential to change stories like mine and to address the crisis of urbanization that is leading to devastation across my continent. I thank The Rockefeller foundation for its vision and look forward to partnering on innovative new paths forward.”
― Kennedy Odede, social entrepreneur and author; co-Founder and CEO of Shining Hope for Communities
- “More and more we’re seeing that companies can build lasting value by working to fix the world’s problems, rather than by creating them. Humanity has no greater shared challenge than tackling climate change and building a clean, inclusive, and just global economy. The Rockefeller Foundation is striving to accelerate this transition. This is the kind of climate leadership the world needs, and it’s the business opportunity of a century.”
― Paul Polman, business leader, campaigner, and author; Trustee of The Rockefeller Foundation.
- “We firmly believe that the new climate strategy will support seed diversity and agroecology for a climate resilient and just food system providing food that is good for people and for the planet.”
―Pratap Shrestha, SeedChange Program Specialist, Seed Systems and Plant Genetic Resources.
- “Climate change has clearly emerged as the greatest challenge of our time, threatening global food security, facilitating the spread of infectious disease, and intensifying extreme weather events. The Rockefeller Foundation’s decision to ‘go big and bold’ in tackling this metastasizing threat is a heartening development. Not only are they in an almost unique position to make a real difference, but their statement and commitment will undoubtedly inspire other individuals, governments, and foundations to follow their lead.”
― Mark J. Plotkin, Co-Founder and President, Amazon Conservation Team (ACT)
- “We established the Sustainable Development Goals with the principle that every single person deserves to be healthy, empowered, nourished, well off, secure, and free. The only way to achieve these Goals by the end of this decade is for organizations like The Rockefeller Foundation to focus all their attention, and commit all their resources, on the most important challenge of our time: climate change.”
― Juan Manuel Santos, former President of the Republic of Colombia and Nobel Peace Laureate; Trustee, The Rockefeller Foundation
- “The climate crisis may not be the making of the younger generation, but we hold the unique blend of creativity, determination, and skills needed to lead substantive change. I keenly look forward to the impact that The Rockefeller Foundation’s new climate strategy will lead to, not only to mobilize young people but also to unite key stakeholders in our shared mission to mitigate climate change.”
― Mohammad Siraj, climate champion; UN India YuWaah Advocate
- “At North American Indigenous Food Systems (NATIFS), we focus on the revitalization of traditional resilient and diverse Indigenous food practices like sustainable foraging and regenerative agriculture— powerful tools for mitigating and adapting to the impact of climate change. We look forward to collaborating with The Rockefeller Foundation as it takes on the challenge of advancing global nutrition security. Together, we can work towards a regenerative, permaculture landscape to withstand adverse effects of climate change while minimizing the distances food travels to reach communities, not only to nourish people and the planet but to offer economic opportunities for tribal communities. We hope this can help our communities reclaim their health, well-being, and cultural connections.”
― Sean Sherman, Co-Founder, North American Indigenous Food Systems (NATIFS)
- “Indigenous Peoples, Local Communities and Young People should be integral to climate decision making process. I am hopeful that The Rockefeller Foundation’s new climate strategy will pave the way for meaningful change, ensuring these communities are protected and empowered, rather than victimized by the unfolding climate crisis.”
― Archana Soreng, Khadia Tribe; former Member, UN Secretary General’s Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change