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Jeff Bezos unveils ambitious set of Amazon projects to tackle climate change



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Jeff Bezos unveils Amazon's climate commitment in Washington, DC, on Thursday.


Ben Fox Rubin / CNET

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos on Thursday announced The Climate Pledge, a plan to make the burgeoning e-commerce and technology company carbon neutral by 2040 and reach a target in the Paris climate agreement 10 years prematurely. Amazon also asks other companies to sign the pledge.


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To reach the carbon neutral target, Bezos announced a new $ 100 million forestry effort and a new order for 100,000 electric vans to move from diesel cars. Amazon also promised to run its global infrastructure with 80% renewable energy by 2024 and 100% by 2030 – up from the 40% renewable energy it uses today.

Bezos said he will reach out to CEOs of other large companies to join the deal, saying that collaboration is the only way to achieve success since all of these business supply chains are interconnected.

"We want to be leaders and role models," Bezos said on a small stage in front of a white "The Climate Pledge" banner. "We have been in the middle of the pack on this matter. And we want to go ahead."


More on The Climate Pledge: Rivian electric van arriving exclusively for Amazon by 2021


With Amazon delivering over 10 billion packages a year, he said this effort will be challenging. But if Amazon can make such changes, he said, other companies will be encouraged to follow suit. This work can also awaken new innovations and business development to support a greener economy, he said.

Bezos was joined on stage by Christiana Figueres, the former UN climate chief and founder of Global Optimism, who showed her support for Amazon's actions.

"This is really an emergency," she said, "and we must operate here with rigor and discipline."

The announcement in the National Press Club in Washington, DC, came a day before the kickoff from Global Climate Strike where people would protest for major measures to combat climate change. Among those planning to demonstrate Friday, 1,500 Amazon workers are organized by the Amazon climate justice group. Both events come just before the UN Climate Action Summit next week.

When asked about the strike, Bezos signaled his support for the demonstrations. "I think it's understandable that people are passionate about this problem, and by the way, they should be passionate about this problem," he said. "I'm passionate about this problem."

The Employee Group said Thursday in a statement : "Amazon's recently announced" Climate Pledge "is a big win for Amazon employees for climate justice, and we welcome what workers [have] could achieve in less than a year. "

The statement added that more work needs to be done:" Today we celebrate. Tomorrow we are in the streets to continue the fight for a prosperous future. "

Bezos , the world's richest person, has promoted the company's many climate initiatives over the years. Amazon has funded a network of wind and solar farms as part of a long-term goal of operating its global infrastructure with 100% renewable energy.

Earlier this year, Amazon announced a new program called Shipment Zero, with a plan to make 50% of all shipments of Amazon's net zero carbon by 2030, likely by offsetting the use of fossil fuel with other sustainability efforts. To track progress, the company committed to reporting the total carbon footprint by the end of the year. The company has also partnered with Hasbro and other companies to create product boxes that can be shipped, reducing the need for additional packaging.

The Climate Pledge represents Amazon's most ambitious and far-reaching efforts for climate so far.

Companies joining the new pledge will pledge to hit net zero carbon over their businesses by 2040, a decade ahead of the Paris Climate Convention's goal of 2050. In 2017, President Donald Trump chose to pull the United States out of the global climate pact, saying that it was too burdensome for American businesses and workers.

As part of Amazon's new effort, Bezos said that his company invested $ 440 million in Rivian the Michigan company to create Amazon's new fleet of electric vehicles. Amazon plans to have 10,000 of the new vans on the road as soon as 2022 and the entire 100,000 fleet in operation by 2030.

Bezos said Amazon's move toward more one-day Prime Shipping should actually cut emissions and say it will require the company to keep more stock close to local customers and reduce the need for air transport.

Amazon is not the only tech titan promoting its climate efforts, with Apple, Google and others describing their work to move toward more renewable sources and reduce their carbon footprint. In addition, Amazon's move follows the "We Are Still In" campaign, in which hundreds of companies including Amazon, Microsoft, Uber and eBay agreed to support the Paris Agreement following Trump's decision to resign.

But with greater awareness of climate change for years, Amazon has been asked to do more. Hundreds of Amazon workers have already joined the employee's climate group. As part of Friday's strike, they demand that the company stop giving to politicians and lobbying groups who deny the existence of climate change, limit work on oil and gas companies and reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2030 – especially without using to achieve this goal.

Over 1,500 Amazon workers have signed up to leave work on Friday to push for more climate action. Individually, the group Microsoft Workers 4 Good said that it will also participate in the demonstrations.

These protests will be part of the broader Global Climate Strike, a student-led movement to be held on September 20. to 27 who were fired by climate activist Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old from Sweden. The demonstrations will be held at the UN Climate Action Summit on September 23.

"I am inspired by Amazon employees whose pressure brought the issue of climate management to the forefront," said Elizabeth Sturcken, Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Fund's program for community engagement, in a statement. "We are already seeing increased pressure on companies from investors and customers, but employee engagement from Amazon – and now also from Microsoft – could be a tipping point that really moves companies toward meaningful climate action."

During a question-and-answer session with reporters, Bezos expressed his support for the Amazon employee group's work, but said he did not agree with all of its goals. For example, he said that Amazon would continue to partner with oil and gas companies, saying that such companies should have access to Amazon's tools, such as the cloud software, while working to move to more sustainable practices.

He said that Amazon would review its political donations to see if it sends money to "climate deniers."

"I am an optimist. I am optimistic for all things," Bezos said when asked if he had a positive outlook on the climate. "I really believe that when ingenuity gets involved, when invention gets involved, when people become purposeful, when their passion comes out, when they make strong goals, that you can invent the way out of any box."

First published at 05:00.
Updated at 08:32 at PT, 9:25 and 1635: More details in Bezos' announcement, Amazon employees for Climate Justice comments and other attempts to support the Paris Agreement.


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