Jeff Bezos, one of the richest humans on the planet, and who started his financial empire by selling books online, pledged $2 billion to restoring natural habitats and transforming food systems at the climate summit in Glasgow on Tuesday.
Speaking at a conference where President Biden and other leaders announced a global pact to end deforestation by 2030, Mr. Bezos said that private industry must play a central role in the campaign.
“Amazon aims to power all its operations by renewable energies by 2025,” he said, restating his goal for the company to be carbon-neutral by 2040.
That will be a sizable challenge.
Amazon said, for example, that the company’s emissions from indirect sources had increased 15 percent last year over 2019. The company has pointed out that when its emissions are measured relative to its booming sales, its carbon footprint has been decreasing. But some climate experts say this calculation, called carbon intensity, obscures that the company is still generating an increasing amount of carbon.
“The planet doesn’t care about carbon intensity,” said Roland Geyer, a professor of industrial ecology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “The climate is being hurt by absolute emissions.”
The actions taken by Amazon came after pressure from employees for the company step up its efforts in addressing climate change. That has included calls that the company stop offering custom cloud-computing services that help the oil and gas industry find and extract fossil fuels, and that it cease giving campaign donations to politicians who deny that climate change is happening.
The pledge that Mr. Bezos made on Monday is part of a philanthropic effort by the Bezos Earth Fund, to which he committed $10 billion last year.
Mr. Bezos, who recently made headlines by flying in a spacecraft built by his rocket company, Blue Origin, called the loss of Earth’s forests “a profound and urgent danger to us all.”
“In too many parts of the world, nature is already flipping from carbon sink to a carbon source,” he said.
Mr. Bezos has joined an international push to safeguard at least 30 percent of Earth’s lands and waters by 2030, known as 30×30.
The plan, led by Britain, Costa Rica and France, is intended to help tackle a global biodiversity crisis that puts a million species of plants and animals at risk of extinction. While climate change is part of the problem, activities like farming and fishing have been even bigger drivers of biodiversity loss.
The 30×30 plan would try to slow that by protecting intact natural areas like old-growth forests and wetlands, which not only nurture biodiversity, but also store carbon and filter water.