Jeff Bezos pledges US$10 billion to tackle climate change
18 February 2020 at 4:36 pm
But climate activists say Bezos needs to go beyond grand philanthropic gestures by improving his company’s environmental policies
The world’s richest man, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, is committing US$10 billion (A$14.9 billion) of his fortune towards tackling climate change.
Bezos – who is worth an estimated US$130 billion – announced on Instagram he was launching the Bezos Earth Fund, to help scientists, activists and NGOs working to preserve and protect the natural world.
“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,” Bezos said.
“It’s going to take collective action from big companies, small companies, nation states, global organisations, and individuals… Earth is the one thing we all have in common – let’s protect it, together.”
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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 Amazon founder said he will use his US$10 billion pledge – 7.5 per cent of his net worth – to start issuing grants this summer.
But climate activists remain critical, pointing out Amazon’s poor record tackling climate change.
Last year it was revealed Amazon’s carbon footprint rivaled that of a small country, and workers have said Amazon threatened to fire employees who criticised its environmental policies.
This led more than 1,500 Amazon workers to go on strike last September to protest the company’s environmental impact.
Amazon Employees for Climate Justice issued a statement that said true visionaries stood up to entrenched systems, even when it came at a great personal cost.
“We applaud Jeff Bezos’ philanthropy, but one hand cannot give what the other is taking away,” the group said.
“The people of Earth need to know: When is Amazon going to stop helping oil and gas companies ravage Earth with still more oil and gas wells?
“When is Amazon going to stop funding climate-denying think tanks like the Competitive Enterprise Institute and climate-delaying policy? When will Amazon take responsibility for the lungs of children near its warehouses by moving from diesel to all-electric trucking?”
The group said Bezos needed to show true leadership, or else “continue to be complicit in the acceleration of the climate crisis, while supposedly trying to help”.
Bezos’ level of philanthropic giving has been criticised in the past, especially when compared with fellow billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.
He has also faced criticism for failing to commit to The Giving Pledge – a campaign encouraging the world’s wealthiest to contribute a majority of their money to philanthropic causes.
But Bezos’ latest donation is believed to be the second largest charitable gift this century, behind Buffett’s pledge to give around US$43 billion to the Gates Foundation in 2006.
Krystian Seibert, an industry fellow at the Centre for Social Impact at Swinburne University, said Bezos’ commitment was a very welcome and exciting development.
He told Pro Bono News that philanthropy has a vital role to play supporting efforts to address climate change.
“That’s especially the case given the failure of certain governments to take proper action, and the need to both fill the vacuum created by this inaction, whilst at the same time putting pressure on governments to change direction,” Seibert said.
Seibert added that Bezos’ funding may well dwarf the total existing philanthropic funding provided towards climate change in the US.
He said this could potentially fundamentally change the landscape in this area.
“[It] could present some challenges in terms of the power it may give Bezos over such an important area, and it underscores the need to ensure that philanthropy’s contribution in any cause area is actively shaped by the voices of experts, communities and other stakeholders,” he said.