Amazon’s Jeff Bezos Pledges £10bn to Fight Climate Change

The world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon made a surprise announcement on Monday to launch a new Earth Fund that he plans to use in the fight against the effects of climate change.

The giant in the world of e-commerce said in an Instagram post that he was pledging to donate £10bn (£7.68bn) of his own money to start the fund which will be called the Bezos Earth Fund.

The fund will be used to issue grants to scientists, activists and other organizations in their efforts to “preserve and protect the natural world.”

Bezos said in his post:

 “We can save Earth. It’s going to take collective action from big companies, small companies, nation states, global organizations, and individuals. Climate change is the biggest threat to our planet. I want to work alongside others both to amplify known ways and to explore new ways of fighting the devastating impact of climate change on this planet we all share.”

He went on to say that he foresees the Earth Fund starting to issue grants to climate-oriented causes as early as this summer. News of the new fund though unanticipated, comes at a time when Amazon has been seeking ways to address criticisms levelled at it. Many believe that Amazon’s e-commerce and shipping business play a big part in fuelling global carbon emissions.

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Earlier this year more than 340 Amazon employees risked losing their jobs by signing a Medium post published by the advocacy group Amazon Employees for Climate Justice. The post criticised the company’s external communications policy which bars employees from speaking about the company’s business without the consent of management.

There is no doubt that Bezos has been slow to take his own advice when it comes to Amazon.

Amazon Employees for Climate Justice said on Monday that though they support Bezos’s move they were still concerned about the company’s support for the oil and gas industry.

The group said in a statement:

“We applaud Jeff Bezos’ philanthropy, but one hand cannot give what the other is taking away. The people of Earth need to know: When is Amazon going to stop helping oil & gas companies ravage Earth with still more oil and gas wells?”

In recent months Amazon has attempted to address similar criticisms by launching initiatives devised to help restrict its impact on the environment.

With vast data centres that power cloud computing, and a global network for shipping and delivering packages, Amazon’s impact on the environment is substantial. 

After almost a year of pressure from rank-and-file employees Amazon finally released a report in September 2019 detailing the company’s impact on the environment. The report revealed that in 2018 Amazon was responsible for emitting 44.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents into the atmosphere which is roughly equal to the annual emissions of Norway or the equivalent of burning almost 600,000 tanker trucks’ worth of gasoline.

Bruno Sarda, president of CDP North America, a non-profit organization that encourages carbon disclosures, said in an interview at the time that this figure would put them in the top 150 or 200 emitters in the world,” alongside oil and gas producers and industrial manufacturers.

Amazon’s environmental report included a list of ambitious and long overdue pledges. The report said that the company plans to use 100
percent renewable energy and have 50 per cent of its shipments emitting net zero carbon by 2030. Amazon plans to have wind and solar power make up 80 per cent of its energy mix by 2024.  All of this adds up to an overall net zero carbon target of 2040, ten years before the 2050 net zero target needed to meet the requirements of the Paris Agreement.

Amazon doesn’t provide detail for its carbon footprint of delivering 3.5 billion packages annually, but as part of its pledge to cut down its carbon emissions it has put in an order for 100,000 electric delivery vehicles, which it estimates will save four million tons of carbon annually by 2030. The plan would see electric vans starting to deliver packages to customers in 2021, with 10,000 of the new vehicles operating by 2022 and all 100,000 operating by 2030.

Despite President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the landmark climate accord earlier in his presidency, Bezos went ahead with the unveiling of an ambitious plan to tackle climate change last year to honour the goals of the Paris Agreement 10 years early.

Bezos said at that time that the seller of everything from textbooks to lawnmowers would report its emissions metrics on a regular basis and introduce decarbonization strategies. Amazon predicts that 80% of its energy use will come from renewable energy sources by 2024 which would be up from a current rate of 40%.

Margaret O’Mara, a professor at the University of Washington who studies the history of tech companies, called the new Bezos fund “a very powerful statement” and said the Amazon chief executive’s actions followed the steps that other tech moguls, such as the Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, had taken to address the warming planet.

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