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Amazon gives itself 21 years to become carbon-neutral

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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has pledged that his company will achieve carbon neutrality by 2040 and will buy 100,000 electric delivery vans from a start-up to help achieve that goal.

The process, which he has given a generous 21 years to complete, follows a letter submitted earlier this year from more than 7,600 Amazon employees urging Bezos to introduce a comprehensive climate change mitigation plan.

The online retail firm currently delivers 10 billion items a year and has a massive transportation and data centre footprint. “We know we can do it and we know we have to do it,” Bezos said.

Amazon is the first major corporation to announce such a goal by 2040, according to US non-profit group Ceres, which works with companies on sustainability commitments.

“What Amazon has announced today is groundbreaking and potentially game-changing,” said Sue Reid, vice president of climate and energy at Ceres. “This will certainly have ripple effects because Amazon is so intertwined with the entire economy.”

Google announced last year that it now runs solely on renewable electricity and subsequently committed to carbon-neutral shipments from 2020 and increased use of recycled materials. The firm has yet to announce a plan to become 100 per cent carbon-neutral, however.

Bezos said Amazon will meet the goals of the Paris climate accord 10 years ahead of the accord’s schedule, and it will use 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030, up from 40 per cent today. The Trump administration said in June 2017 it was withdrawing from the Paris climate accord.

The firm has signed The Climate Pledge, a set of measures that commits companies to reach net zero carbon by 2040 by measuring their output on a regular basis and implementing decarbonisation strategies.

“We’re done being in the middle of the herd on this issue – we’ve decided to use our size and scale to make a difference,” Bezos said. “If a company with as much physical infrastructure as Amazon – which delivers more than 10 billion items a year – can meet the Paris Agreement 10 years early, then any company can.

“I’ve been talking with other CEOs of global companies, and I’m finding a lot of interest in joining the pledge. Large companies signing The Climate Pledge will send an important signal to the market that it’s time to invest in the products and services the signatories will need to meet their commitments.”

Environmental advocacy group Greenpeace USA welcomed the commitment, but a spokesman said the company still lags peers Google, Apple and Facebook in transparency around its renewable projects.

In 2017 Apple said it wanted to build all of its future products from recycled materials and is currently approaching 100 per cent renewable energy in its manufacturing processes.

Amazon also pledged to buy 100,000 electric delivery vehicles from US vehicle design and manufacturing start-up Rivian Automotive.

Deliveries from the firm are expected to begin in 2021 with the goal to build all the required vehicles by 2024. A Rivian spokeswoman said 10,000 of the vehicles for Amazon will be on the road by late 2022.

The company was founded in 2009 and has raised close to $1.9bn from investors including a $700m February round led by Amazon as well as additional funding from Ford.

The company said Amazon currently has 30,000 vehicles delivering customer orders in the United States. That excludes vans from United Parcel Service Inc and the US Postal Service, which are also carrying non-Amazon parcels.

Amazon will invest $100m to restore forests and wetlands, said Bezos, adding the company will take a “careful look” at political campaign contributions it makes that could be going to politicians who deny climate science.

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