Published 2:00 PM EDT Sep 19, 2019
WASHINGTON – Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said Thursday that the company has committed to meet the terms of the Paris climate agreement 10 years ahead of schedule, including by purchasing 100,000 electric vans and moving to 100% renewable energy.
Amazon, which committed to be carbon neutral by 2040, has been facing pressure from its employees and activists to reduce its emissions in an effort to combat climate change.
A day before a global climate strike is expected to call attention to the world’s environmental plight, Bezos said the company would use its considerable leverage to slash carbon emissions.
Bezos told reporters that Amazon would “implement de-carbonization strategies in line with the Paris agreement,” alter its “actual business activities to eliminate carbon” and acquire “credible” carbon offsets with “nature-based solutions.”
Former United Nations climate chief Christiana Figueres, who appeared alongside Bezos in an endorsement of the company’s plan, said Amazon would also pressure its business partners to meet the goals.
“We want to use our scale and our scope to lead the way,” Bezos said. “We have to do it.”
Amazon gets about 40% of its energy from renewable sources with 15 utility-scale solar and wind farms. That will move to 80% by 2024 and 100% by 2030, Bezos said.
The company will also purchase 100,000 electric delivery vans from Michigan-based start-up Rivian, he said. Currently, all of Amazon’s vans burn fossil fuels. Amazon has invested $400 million in Rivian, which also has backing from Ford.
Bezos said he remains optimistic that the world can successfully confront climate change despite dire scientific projections of sea-level rise, environmental catastrophes, health epidemics and extreme weather.
“You can invent your way out of any box – and that’s what we humans need to do right now,” he said. “I believe we’re going to do it. I’m sure we’re going to do it.”
Asked how Amazon’s move to one-day or same-day delivery affects the environment, he defended the company’s business model, saying that short delivery times require local warehouses and often can’t be done by carbon-heavy planes.
“It actually turns out that as you increase the speed of delivery, you have less carbon,” he said. “That is counterintuitive.”
Thousands of Amazon’s own workers have signed onto a group called Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, which organized a campaign to urge the company’s shareholders to adopt a resolution forcing the company to take action.
The measure won the support of two independent shareholder advisory services but was rejected by investors in May.
Rebecca Sheppard, a senior product manager at Amazon who is active in Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, told USA TODAY recently that “Amazon’s paying attention” – based on the company’s recent actions, including an announcement involving plans to cut emissions from 50% of its packages.
“Being an employee is actually a great gift to change the industry for which you work,” Sheppard said at the time. “If you want to invoke change, the best way to do so is to go into the industry where you want to see the change and fight for it.”
Sheppard added: “It seems increasingly that being on the right side of the climate crisis is not a fringe issue. It’s becoming more and more what shareholders and investors expect.”
Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.