Bezos fund commits $500m to join Ikea and Rockefeller in renewable energy push

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Jeff Bezos’ fund to fight climate change is joining a push spearheaded by the Ikea and Rockefeller foundations to unlock $100bn of funding to bring renewable energy to the world’s poorest people.

The Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet is being formally unveiled at the COP26 summit in Glasgow on Tuesday and aims to provide 1bn people in Asia, Africa and Latin America with renewable energy.

The Bezos Earth Fund is putting in $500m of seed capital to join the $1bn already pledged by the Ikea and Rockefeller foundations, with more than $8bn extra coming from multilateral banks and development agencies such as the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, and US International Development Finance Corporation.

Per Heggenes, chief executive of the Ikea Foundation, told the Financial Times that in a decade the alliance aims to have $100bn of capital and help avert 4bn tonnes of carbon emissions.

“What is really unique about this is the collaborative spirit. Almost for the first time, you have philanthropy coming together with development funds, multilateral banks, and private banks. We shouldn’t underestimate the convening power of Jeff Bezos and his ability to catalyse others by coming into this initiative,” Heggenes added.

The alliance intends to start renewable energy projects such as micro solar and hydropower in conjunction with governments and local companies with the Ikea, Rockefeller and Bezos money acting as risk capital to help attract private investors.

The first such projects are planned for countries including Nigeria, Ethiopia, South Africa, and the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa; India, Indonesia, Vietnam and Pakistan in Asia; and Colombia and Haiti in Latin America.

The aim is to increase the platform to $35bn-$50bn within five years and to more than $100bn within a decade, by leveraging both multilateral and private capital.

The $10bn Bezos Earth Fund was set up by the Amazon founder and one of the world’s richest men last year to help fight climate change at a time when the US internet giant is facing growing internal and external criticism about its own environmental impact.

“Our commitment today supports a three-fold imperative — we must conserve what we have, restore what we’ve lost, and grow what we need in harmony with nature,” said Bezos. 

Heggenes added that too little philanthropic capital had been pledged up until now to tackle climate change, less than 2 per cent of the total.

“So the potential is significant to get more philanthropy funding into climate, which is arguably the most urgent challenge we face in the world. Hopefully we will see more money flow into this type of initiative,” he added.

The alliance is looking at all countries in what Heggenes called “the global south” but other nations it is already working with include Malawi, Uganda, Sierra Leone, the Philippines, Bangladesh and Myanmar.

“The Global Energy Alliance is a game-changing initiative which will help to accelerate access to electricity in our drive to end global energy poverty,” said Akinwumi Adesina, president of the African Development Bank Group.

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