Sep 17, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Amazon stakes climate tech startups

An illustration of a box labeled fragile in front of a red background.

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Amazon just named the first recipients of money from the $2 billion venture fund it rolled out in June to help companies develop climate friendly technologies.

Driving the news: Amazon, which has pledged to have "net zero" emissions by 2040, said on Thursday morning initial recipients are...

  • CarbonCure Technologies, a firm with technology that sequesters CO2 in concrete.
  • Pachama, which provides forest carbon offsets and touts use of machine learning and satellite imagery to measure and verify CO2 removal.
  • Redwood Materials, the battery and electronic waste recycling company launched by Tesla's former chief technology officer.
  • Turntide Technologies, which provides efficient electric motors.
“Today, I am excited to announce that we are investing in a group of companies that are channeling their entrepreneurial energy into helping Amazon and other companies reach net zero by 2040 and keep the planet safer for future generations.”
— Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO

Why it matters: The investments from the "Climate Pledge Fund" signals how tech giants that have announced splashy emissions goals are taking more concrete steps to implement them.

  • For instance Microsoft, which in January vowed to be "carbon negative" by 2030, recently announced the first investment from its $1 billion "climate innovation fund."

How it works: Amazon said it's not only staking the fund recipients, but using the firms' products too. That includes using CarbonCure's technology in "many" of its new buildings.

  • Amazon is counting its existing investments in the electric vehicle company Rivian as one of the fund's outlays, but did not announce new funding.
  • In addition to staking Rivian, last year Amazon also ordered 100,000 electric delivery vehicles from them and plans to have 10,000 on the roads by 2022.

By the numbers: Amazon isn't disclosing the exact amounts of the investments, but they range "from hundreds of thousands in seed and early-stage investments to multi-million dollar investments," said spokesman Luis Davila.

What they're saying: “We witnessed the tech industry setting climate change trends with their adoption of renewable energy sources like wind and solar," said Robert Niven, CEO and co-founder of CarbonCure Technologies, in a statement about Thursday's announcement. 

  • "This investment in [carbon dioxide removal] signals a broader change for public and private infrastructure projects as industries and governments turn their focus toward the reduction of embodied carbon."

Where it stands: Other investments in carbon removal projects and companies are piling up.

  • This week the e-commerce company Shopify announced investments in CarbonCure, Pachama, the direct air capture firm Carbon Engineering and others in the "carbon removal" space.
  • In May the payment tech company Stripe announced its first four carbon removal purchases, while this summer Microsoft issued a request for proposals for carbon removal projects to finance.
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