Apr 21, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Amazon pours $10 million into forest conservation

 Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos speaks to the media on the company's sustainability efforts

Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos speaks in September on the company's sustainability efforts in Washington, D.C., in September. Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

Amazon is putting $10 million into restoring or conserving four million acres of forest as part of its 2019 pledge to become carbon-negative within the next 20 years, the company announced Tuesday.

Where it stands: Tech giants are poised to gain as life moves even more online with the coronavirus pandemic wearing on, and early signs suggest they’re not backing down much from their march — however slow and uneven — toward greener businesses.

Flashback: Microsoft made a biodiversity announcement last week, and its chief sustainability officer says the company is as committed as ever to its climate and environmental goals.

Driving the news: This $10 million is the first project from Amazon's $100 million Right Now Climate Fund, which is focused on removing CO2 from the atmosphere via land use. That fund is itself part of Amazon’s Climate Pledge, wherein the company pledged to reach net-zero carbon 2040.

By the numbers: Amazon said Tuesday’s announcement would in the next 11 years remove a net reduction of up to 18.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide by restoring or conserving forests, which naturally soak up CO2.

  • That's equivalent to 46 billion miles driven by an average passenger vehicle, Amazon says.
  • Amazon itself emits nearly 50 million metric tons of carbon dioxide a year, so this is a drop in the bucket to the overall picture.

Yes, but: Ensuring the authenticity of these types of emission-reduction methods is tricky because it can be hard to prove the trees would have been cut down absent, in this case, Amazon’s support.

  • This is why companies often make these types of announcements: precisely because they're hard to quantify but nonetheless everyone loves trees (just as House Republicans).
  • An Amazon spokesperson said the company is quantifying its emission reductions through two carbon-standard organizations: the American Carbon Registry and Verified Carbon Standard.

The other side: Amazon, along with other tech companies, is facing criticism for continuing deals with oil and gas companies even while doubling down on aggressive climate-change goals.

  • Amazon in particular has faced criticism for firing employees who criticized its position on climate change, The Washington Post recently reported.

What we're watching: When we’ll find out more about the $10 billion (with a b!) fund Amazon founder Jeff Bezos announced earlier this year to help support science and philanthropy on climate change. That's about all we (still) know about it to this day.

Go deeper