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Can Jeff Bezos’ Earth Fund Offset Amazon’s Environmental Impact?

In the past three years, Jeff Bezos’ climate philanthropy fund has met 16 percent of its goal to give out $10 billion in grants by 2030.

The Bezos Earth Fund is “able to move quickly; we’re able to take risks that perhaps [governments] could not,” said Andrew Steer, CEO of the fund, while speaking on a recent episode of Bloomberg’s Zero podcast.

The fund was created in Feb. 2020 with a $10 billion pledge from Bezos, the largest-ever philanthropic commitment to fight climate change. Bezos is currently the world’s third wealthiest person, with an estimated net worth of $128 billion.

“Climate change is the biggest threat to our planet,” said Bezos in an Instagram post when he first announced the fund. “This global initiative will fund scientists, activists, NGOs—any effort that offers a real possibility to help preserve and protect the natural world.”

As of 2023, the fund has given out $1.6 billion in grants to more than 100 projects. It has allocated $1 billion each towards nature conservation, restoration and food system transformation, according to Steer, who was previously head of the World Resources Institute.

In order to invest its money strategically, the Bezos Earth Fund uses the System Change Lab, which tracks climate progress through data and analysis to identify which initiatives will be most successful, Steer told Zero.

The fund operates like a venture capitalist, said Steer, meaning it takes high-risk actions with the potential for high-impact. “That means that we can go into things knowing that they may fail, if we believe that the potential return is large enough.”

What about Amazon’s carbon emissions?
Bezos is also the founder and chair of Amazon, which in 2019 pledged to meet net-zero carbon emissions by 2040, ten years ahead of the goal set by the Paris Agreement. However, the company’s emissions have actually grown in the past few years, according to Amazon’s most recent sustainability report. It released 71.54 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2021, an 18 percent increase from 2020 and up 40 percent from 2019.

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