Amazon pledges zero emissions by 2040

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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has unveiled the company’s updated climate plan and boy, is it a doozy. The company that most likely controls a significant portion of your life is now pursuing the goals of going to zero emissions by 2040, with plans to have 80% of Amazon’s energy use to come from renewable sources by 2024. For reference, that’s double Amazon’s current renewable penetration.

This is a very aggressive plan by Amazon, with that 2040 zero-emission target coming a whole decade before the standards outlined in the Paris climate agreement. The company also announced The Climate Pledge, a commitment to meet the Paris Agreement 10 years early for other companies to follow in. Under it, companies pledge to:

  • Measure and report greenhouse gas emissions on a regular basis;
  • Implement decarbonization strategies in line with the Paris Agreement through real business changes and innovations, including efficiency improvements, renewable energy, materials reductions, and other carbon emission elimination strategies;
  • Neutralize any remaining emissions with additional, quantifiable, real, permanent, and socially-beneficial offsets to achieve net zero annual carbon emissions by 2040.

In pursuit of that first point, Amazon has launched a sustainability website to report on its commitments, initiatives, and performance. The site includes information on Amazon’s carbon footprint and other sustainability metrics that share the progress the company is making towards reaching The Climate Pledge.

In pursuit of the carbon elimination target, Amazon has agreed to purchase 100,000 electric delivery vans from vehicle manufacturer Rivian. The first of these vans will begin their deliveries in 2021, ramping up to 10,000 vans by 2022 and the full 100,000 by 2024.

This is huge. The transportation industry is one of the largest annual contributors to emissions, and Amazon’s fleet represents significant emissions just based off of sheer size. It also could Amazon’s renewable electricity commitment bigger in capacity terms; if the company charges these vans at its facilities, that will mean more electric demand.

In addition to investing in electric vehicles, the company is putting an additional $100 million into restoring and protecting forests, wetlands, and peatlands around the world. This is being done in partnership with with The Nature Conservancy and has been dubbed the “Right Now Climate Fund.”

“The science is clear: healthy forests, grasslands, and wetlands are some of the most effective tools we have to address climate change—but we must act now to take natural climate solutions to scale,” said Sally Jewell, interim CEO, The Nature Conservancy.

This is an idea that was echoed today by teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg in a short film, one frequently lost in the weeds in pursuit of other environmental efforts.

With all that Amazon is pledging, it could well prove to be for naught if they are alone in their efforts. It is for that reason that Bezos has been so adamant in the necessity of other companies signing The Climate Pledge.

“We’re done being in the middle of the herd on this issue—we’ve decided to use our size and scale to make a difference,” said Bezos. “If a company with as much physical infrastructure as Amazon—which delivers more than 10 billion items a year—can meet the Paris Agreement 10 years early, then any company can.”