Jeff Bezos announced the creation of his Bezos Earth Fund this week, which will donate a remarkable $10 billion towards fighting climate change.
Any time a donation this big goes directly to forces fighting climate change, it’s worth celebrating. But let’s not get carried away by the scale of the donation from the Amazon CEO. After all, the company that generated his $130 billion net worth has a poor track record when it comes to the environment.
In September 2019, after almost a year of pressure from rank-and-file employees, Amazon finally released a report detailing the company’s impact on the environment. In 2018 it emitted 44.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents into the atmosphere – roughly equal to the annual emissions of Norway. As its employees have complained, Amazon Web Services still goes after the oil and gas industry, selling itself as a way to squeeze more margin out of an industry that – in its current form – is incompatible with fixing the climate crisis.
But it’s not all bad for Amazon. Recently, the company came out with a list of ambitious yet long overdue pledges to fight climate change.
By 2030, the company plans to use 100 percent renewable energy and have 50 percent of its shipments emitting net zero carbon. By 2024 it plans to have wind and solar power make up 80 percent of its energy mix. 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.
Along with the big donation, these pledges at least show that the Amazon CEO is coming to terms with the fact that being one of the world’s largest companies comes with the responsibility of protecting the environment. A $10 billion donation is applaudable, but the real praise will come when Amazon becomes a force for climate action.