When the Paris Agreement was signed in 2016, it was naturally considered a landmark agreement among virtually every global nation to lower temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050 through reducing carbon and greenhouse gas emissions. And while exactly just how regulatory standards will be implemented has been met with some degree of controversy, it’s generally been acknowledged by both world and business industry leaders that climate change is one of the single most critical factors of the 21st century.
But the real question has always been just how committed corporations truly are towards environmental change.
When Amazon announced the establishment of the Climate Pledge Fund in 2019, it was met with some degree of skepticism—particularly as many of the target industries included such notorious carbon producers as aviation, logistics, construction and automotive. But just two years on, how successful has it been so far?
What is the Climate Pledge Fund?
One of the chief goals of the Climate Pledge Fund is to encourage signatories from over 19 industries to match Amazon’s pledge to be net zero carbon across their businesses by 2040, some ten years earlier than the Paris Agreement’s estimated goal. But it’s not just an empty commitment pledgees are signing on to. Business must produce demonstrable goals by signing the pledge, including
Measurement and regular reporting of greenhouse gas emissions.
Implementation of decarbonization strategies matching the Paris Agreement by providing demonstrable solutions towards renewable energy, materials reductions, and other carbon emission elimination strategies.
Providing a cohesive plan of action to neutralize any remaining carbon emissions through credible and permanent offsets by 2040.
To this end, Amazon has also pledged to establish a $2 Billion venture investment fund program for companies that will provide innovative products and solutions that will facilitate the transition towards a carbon-free economy as well as developing a Climate Friendly Program to make it easier for Amazon customers to discover more sustainable products.
What Steps Towards Progress Has the Climate Pledge Fund Achieved?
To date, 53 companies have joined the Climate Pledge Fund; most recently in February of 2021 when Amazon announced an additional 20 signatories. Among the companies who companies who have joined to fund to date include:
One goal Amazon achieved early on was realized with their recent announcement of a fleet of 100,000 custom electric delivery vehicles, which are expected to serve 15 American cities by the end of 2021. In addition, they recently invested in international start-up ZeroAvia to to support the development of sustainable aviation through zero-emission, hydrogen-fueled commercial and passenger flights as well as CarbonCure, a manufacturing solution that introduces recycled CO₂ into concrete to reduce its carbon footprint.
How Realistic is the Climate Pledge Fund?
The Climate Pledge Fund isn’t without criticism, especially considering Amazon’s 2020 Sustainability Report actually revealed a 15 percent in carbon emissions—a number, Amazon was quick to point out, directly corresponded with a 22 percent increase in sales. Yet despite this seeming discrepancy, Amazon recently claimed to have successfully reduced over 500 million boxes and 244,000 tons of packaging materials; an eco-friendly claim bolstered by their acquisition of six million gallons of sustainable aviation fuel to power their growing Amazon Air fleet produced by renewable resources which emits substantially less carbon emissions than standard fuel.
Amazon has always been innovation-focused, whether in their own customer service or within their product development. But innovation can come at a cost, both financially and environmentally. As consumer demand for sustainability in the marketplace continues to surge into 2021, Amazon may not be able to meet that demand on its own. Much of the success of the Climate Pledge Fund will have to depend on strengthening future partnerships with industry leaders. And industry leaders will ultimately have to reexamine their own attitudes towards the feasibility of achieving a net zero carbon emission rate in less than twenty years. Consumers can encourage them only so much. But it’s up to the business sector to take those words into account through demonstrable action.
Action needs a realistic model if it’s to achieve any change. And Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund can be that model.
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