Amazon founder Jeff Bezos unveils $10bn climate fund
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, widely regarded as the richest man in modern history, has pledged to funnel $10bn (£7.7bn) of his personal fortune into a new fund aimed at tackling climate challenges.
Called the Bezos Earth Fund and unveiled late last night (17 February), the fund will begin issuing grants this summer to projects working to “amplify known ways” and “explore new ways” of mitigating and adapting to climate impacts.
Organisations eligible for funding include not only innovators and small businesses, but scientific and academic researchers, NGOs and activist groups also.
Funding will be open globally, but Bezos is yet to confirm how much each individual project could receive.
While the fund is one of the largest of its kind to be entirely funded by the personal wealth of an individual, Bezos has faced criticism for the fact that $10bn is ultimately equivalent to less than 7% of his net worth. Moreover, Amazon itself is one of just two firms – alongside Apple – to have surpassed $1trn in market cap.
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Today, I’m thrilled to announce I am launching the Bezos Earth Fund. Climate change is the biggest threat to our planet. I want to work alongside others both to amplify known ways and to explore new ways of fighting the devastating impact of climate change on this planet we all share. This global initiative will fund scientists, activists, NGOs — any effort that offers a real possibility to help preserve and protect the natural world. We can save Earth. It’s going to take collective action from big companies, small companies, nation states, global organizations, and individuals. I’m committing $10 billion to start and will begin issuing grants this summer. Earth is the one thing we all have in common — let’s protect it, together. - Jeff
The launch of the Bezos Earth Fund comes shortly after the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, together with Sir David Attenborough, launched the 'Earthshot Prize' - a fund for individuals and organisations working to restore the environment.
Climate campaigns and controversies
Last Autumn, Amazon pledged to reach net-zero carbon emissions across its operations by 2040 by investing in energy efficiency measures, renewable energy, materials efficiency and low-carbon technologies.
The commitment was bolstered by a long-term funding roadmap and a $100m pot for immediate investment in forest preservation efforts in the wake of a record year of forest fires in Brazil. Dubbed the “Right Now Climate Fund”, the pot is being allocated by The Nature Conservancy to projects such as forest protection and peatland restoration.
But for many green campaigners, the commitment was too little, too late – especially given that it does not cover Amazon’s extensive supply chains for non-own-brand products and was only made after a string of protests from its employees.
In their protests, staff criticised Amazon for failing to set a deadline for its target of sourcing 100% renewable energy, first announced in 2014. They also called for Amazon to set a 1.5C science-based target, complete with a roadmap.
Amazon’s net-zero commitment seemed to placate protests for a time, even if activists were calling for a 2030 deadline. But last month, staff campaign group Amazon Employees for Climate Justice told media that the e-tailer was threatening to fire staff who made negative public comments.
In response to these claims, Amazon said it had updated its policy and processes in a bid to “ make it easier for employees to participate in external activities such as speeches, media interviews, and use of the company's logo."