Jeff Bezos is donating $1 billion of his $10 billion climate charitable pledge to protect biodiversity and carbon-efficient forests in the Andes, the Congo Basin and the tropical Pacific. After nearly three decades at the helm of Amazon, which has a vast and growing carbon footprint, Bezos appears determined to forge a new identity as an environmentalist and perhaps the most generous global funder in the fight against climate change. And that costly trip into space he just took? Bezos says it has been helpful.
“Nature is our survival system and it’s fragile,” the billionaire said Monday at a press conference. “I was reminded of this last July when I went to space with Blue Origin. I’ve heard that seeing Earth from space changed our perspective of the world, but I wasn’t ready for that to be true.
While the fundraising effort is certainly noteworthy, Bezos’ commitment to protecting the environment is a stark reminder that much of his legacy and largely untaxed wealth has been built up by companies that have a staggering carbon footprint. Amazon’s carbon emissions have increased every year since 2018 and last year alone, when global carbon emissions fell by about 7%, Amazon’s carbon emissions increased 19% to 60,64 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. This is roughly equivalent to burning 140 million barrels of oil.
Amazon has decided to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, for example by committing to powering its cars, and has enlisted dozens of companies to sign the Climate Pledge, the company’s commitment to achieving net zero emissions by 2040. But for now, Amazon still depends on huge fleets of Polluted delivery vehicles, unnecessary packaging, and even a new fleet of jet-fueled aircraft to continue delivering products to online shoppers quickly.
Meanwhile, Amazon Web Services (AWS) uses massive amounts of energy to keep its servers online. In 2019, Greenpeace accused the cloud computing company of reneging on its commitment to using 100% renewable energy and said that some of AWS’ largest data centers use only 12% of renewable energy. And while other companies, such as Google, have moved away from providing cloud services to fossil fuel companies, AWS still lists Shell, Hess, and BP as clients.
Bezos is technically no longer part of Amazon. But Blue Origin, his private spaceflight company that recently took him into space, has raised environmental concerns. While the space rocket company has used carbon-free fuels — a mixture of liquid hydrogen and liquid hydrogen — these fuels remain costly to the environment, and environmentalists warn that Blue Origin rockets still leave behind particles that can damage the atmosphere.
So, from a certain perspective, Bezos’ environmental philanthropy looks like an attempt to clean up the mess his companies helped create.
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