Amazon pledges surprisingly bold climate change goals

The move comes one day before more than 1,500 Amazon employees are set to walk off the job as part of the global climate strikes.

  • Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced on Thursday plans to swiftly combat climate change.
  • Some parts of the plan include becoming carbon neutral by 2040, buying 100,000 electric delivery vans and reaching zero emissions by 2030.
  • Some Amazon employees say the pledge is good but doesn't go far enough.


Amazon pledged on Thursday to become carbon neutral by 2040 and to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement 10 years early. The move — announced by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos during a presentation with former United Nations climate change chief Christiana Figueres — comes one day ahead of the global climate strike, for which more than 1,500 Amazon employees are expected to walk off the job.

It marks the most sweeping climate promise to date from the world's largest retailer. To launch its new plan, Amazon created and became the first signatory of the Climate Pledge, which calls on businesses to measure and regularly report on greenhouse gas emissions, and also to implement decarbonization and carbon-offset strategies.

"We've been in the middle of the herd on this issue, and we want to move to the forefront," Bezos said.

This said, Amazon plans to:

  • Get 80 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2024, up from its current rate of 40 percent
  • Reach zero emissions by 2030
  • Become carbon neutral by 2040
  • Buy 100,000 electric delivery vans, some of which will begin making deliveries in 2021, with all projected to be in use by 2024, according to Bezos
  • Create a $100 million reforestation fund
  • Encourage other corporations to sign the Climate Pledge

"Meeting these goals is something that can only be done in collaboration with other large companies because we're all part of each other's supply chains," Bezos said. "We're signing up to help do that."

But Bezos disagreed with the idea that Amazon should no longer sign cloud computing contracts with oil and gas companies, which is one of the demands of Amazon employees planning to walk out on Friday.

"We should and we need to help them instead of vilify them," Bezos said, referring to aiding oil companies in the transition to renewable energies.

The Amazon Employees For Climate Justice Twitter account said the pledge is a "huge win," but added that it's not enough.

Josué Velázquez Martínez, a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Center for Transportation and Logistics and director of its Sustainable Logistics Initiative, told The Washington Post that Amazon's quick delivery services work against sustainability and climate-friendly goals.

"That part is not sustainable at all," Velázquez Martínez said, adding elsewhere that the company should show customers the environmental impacts of next-day shipping to incentivize slower delivery options. "They could do much more in terms of sustainability."

Of course, consumers share some of this responsibility, though many find the convenience hard to turn down.

"With Amazon, it's hard to be disciplined," said University of Washington's Don MacKenzie, who leads the Sustainable Transportation lab. "You've [got] an all-you-can-eat buffet as far as shipping goes. We don't see that price signal telling us, maybe you wait and combine shipments."

The global climate strikes are set to happen worldwide from Sept. 20 to 27, with hundreds of employees of other big tech companies, such as Microsoft and Google, planning to participate as well.

Higher ed isn’t immune to COVID-19, but the crisis will make it stronger

The pandemic reminds us that our higher education system, with all its flaws, remains a key part of our strategic reserve.

Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • America's higher education system is under great scrutiny as it adapts to a remote-learning world. These criticisms will only make higher ed more innovative.
  • While there are flaws in the system and great challenges ahead, higher education has adapted quickly to allow students to continue learning. John Katzman, CEO of online learning organization Noodle Partners, believes this is cause for optimism not negativity.
  • Universities are pillars of scientific research on the COVID-19 frontlines, they bring facts in times of uncertainty and fake news, and, in a bad economy, education is a personal floatation device.
Keep reading Show less

An ancient device too advanced to be real gives up its secrets at last

Researchers present what they’ve learned now that they can read the tiny text inside the Antikythera mechanism.

Exploded view of Antikythera mechanism (Peulle/Wikimedia)
Surprising Science

Though it it seemed to be just a corroded lump of some sort when it was found in a shipwreck off the coast of Greece near Antikythera in 1900, in 1902 archaeologist Valerios Stais, looking at the gear embedded in it, guessed that what we now call the “Antikythera mechanism" was some kind of astronomy-based clock. He was in the minority—most agreed that something so sophisticated must have entered the wreck long after its other 2,000-year-old artifacts. Nothing like it was believed to have existed until 1,500 years later.

Keep reading Show less

Hyper-innovation: COVID-19 will forever change the way we teach kids

The institutional barriers that have often held creative teaching back are being knocked down by the coronavirus era.

Future of Learning
  • Long-held structures in the education system, like classroom confines and schedules, have held back innovation for a long time, says education leader Richard Culatta.
  • In the coronavirus era, we have been able to shake some of those rigid structures loose, making way for creativity and, ultimately, a more open mindset.
  • When creativity and technology combine, learning can become so much more than delivering content to a student. Culatta gives two stunning examples: one of a biotech class, and another involving a student discovering a star.
Keep reading Show less

Algorithms associating appearance and criminality have a dark past

We'd like to think that judging people's worth based on the shape of their head is a practice that's behind us.

PATRICK KOVARIK/AFP via Getty Images
Culture & Religion

'Phrenology' has an old-fashioned ring to it. It sounds like it belongs in a history book, filed somewhere between bloodletting and velocipedes.

Keep reading Show less
Scroll down to load more…