During a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. this morning, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos alongside former United Nations climate leaders unveiled the Climate Pledge, where businesses commit to meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement 10 years ahead of schedule. Amazon will become the first signatory, pledging to reduce and offset carbon emissions with renewable sources of energy.
Bezos also announced a new $100 million reforestation effort as well as a new order for 100,000 electric delivery vans to move away from diesel vans.
“[Earth is the] best planet in the solar system. We need to take care of it,” he said, adding that the goal is for 80% of Amazon’s energy use to be renewable by 2024 and 100% by 2030. “It’s really something that can only be done in collaboration with other large companies, because we’re all part of each other’s supply chains.”
The announcement came a day before workers around the world, including more than 1,000 employed by Amazon, intend to strike to bring attention to climate change. And they follow months after more than 4,200 Amazon workers called on Amazon to rethink how it addresses and contributes to a warming planet, pointing to an analysis by climate group 350 Seattle that found the company’s shipping business emitted 19.1 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2017. Greenpeace similarly dinged the company in a recent report, noting that its Virginia data centers are powered by only 12% renewable energy versus Facebook’s 37% and Microsoft’s 34%.
As a refresher, the Paris Agreement was negotiated by representatives of 196 state parties at the 21st Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC in Le Bourget, France in December 2015. Its long-term goal is to keep the increase in global average temperature “well below” 2°C above preindustrial levels and encourage efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. In 2017, the Trump Administration announced the U.S. intends to withdraw as soon as it is legally eligible to do so, as early as November 2020.
Amazon in February said it hopes to make 50% of all shipments to customers with net zero carbon in the next 11 years as part of an initiative it’s calling Shipment Zero. That initiative built on the Seattle retailer’s ongoing work to minimize its contributions to greenhouse gases, Dave Clark, senior vice president of worldwide operations at Amazon, explained in a blog post.
“With improvements in electric vehicles, aviation biofuels, reusable packaging, and renewable energy, for the first time we can now see a path to net zero carbon delivery of shipments to customers,” he wrote. “[I]t won’t be easy to achieve this goal, but it’s worth being focused and stubborn on this vision and we’re committed to seeing it through.”
Amazon has over 200 scientists, engineers, and product designers dedicated to “inventing new ways” to “leverage [its] scale” for the “good of customers and the planet,” Clark said, and has engaged in an “extensive” project over the past two years to develop a model that provides internal teams with data to help them identify ways to reduce carbon use. The tech giant operates a network of 12 solar and wind farms and has installed solar panels on a portion of its fulfillment center rooftops, and it’s invested $10 million a project finance fund — Closed Loop Fund — that invests in sustainable manufacturing technologies and recycling infrastructure.
On the Amazon Web Services side of its business, Amazon committed in 2014 to 100% renewable energy usage, but it didn’t set a deadline. It says that 50% of the cloud division is powered by renewable energy currently.