A day before 1,550 Amazon workers are set to strike over the company’s carbon footprint, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced a new climate pledge with the goal of reaching the Paris climate accord goals 10 years early.
Friday’s strike will mark the first time white collar Amazon workers have walked out in the company’s history. Amazon employees are demanding that the company eliminate its carbon footprint by 2030, end custom contracts with oil and gas companies, and refuse funding from climate denying lobbyists. The action organized by Amazon Employees for Climate Justice has inspired Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter employees to plan their own walkouts.
Though Bezos' pledge does not respond directly to the demands of Amazon employees, the billionaire said in Washington on Thursday that Amazon is pledging to hit the Paris agreement's goal of zero carbon emissions by 2040, and be powered by 100% renewable energy by 2030. According to a statement, companies that sign on pledge to implement decarbonization strategies through “real business changes and innovations, including efficiency improvements, renewable energy, materials reductions, and other carbon emission elimination strategies.”
“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,” Bezos said. Additionally, Bezos promised $100 million to the Nature Conservancy for reforestation projects as well as an order of 100,000 Rivian electric delivery vans in a move away from diesel trucks. (Amazon led a $700 million investment round in Rivan this year.)
According to Amazon workers, the pledge is a positive step but it's not enough, and the strike will continue as planned.
“Amazon’s newly announced ‘Climate Pledge’ proves that collective action and employee pressure works,” said a press release from Amazon Employees for Climate Justice. “But we know it’s not enough. The Paris Agreement, by itself, won’t get us to a livable world. Today, we celebrate. Tomorrow, we’ll be in the streets to continue the fight for a livable future.”
The organizers of the strike say that Bezos’ climate pledge marks a milestone in the tech industry, but that they will not stop protesting until Amazon begins to think about the parts of its supply chain excluded in their emissions reporting, donations they receive from climate denying lobbyists, and the oppression of climate refugees, including communities impacted directly by Amazon’s pollution in California’s Inland Empire.
Bezos’s pledge to reach the Paris climate goal—which aims to reach net zero emissions by 2050 in order to limit warming to 1.5 degrees celsius—does make clear that Amazon is increasingly looking at itself as a company with power akin to that of a nation state. The Paris agreement benchmarks have challenged many countries, and will require massive, society-wide shifts to achieve. In 2017, the Trump administration—which has benefited immensely from contributions from the oil and gas industries—announced that the U.S. is abandoning the agreement.
Similarly, as Amazon rapidly expands its fleet of delivery vehicles and moves into new markets, the company’s carbon footprint will be difficult to offset without massive shifts in technology and cooperation across the supply chain.
Bezos' pledge isn’t the first time that the billionaire has attempted to satisfy employees' growing climate concerns. In response to the formation of Amazon Employees for Climate Justice last November, Bezos has announced a number of changes to reduce the company’s massive carbon footprint, which includes shipping and cloud computing pollution. In February, the company announced Shipping Zero, a plan to make half of Amazon’s shipments with zero carbon emissions by 2030. Amazon also committed to reporting its total carbon footprint by the end of 2019.