Tech by VICE

Jeff Bezos’ $10B Earth Fund Can’t Undo Amazon’s Damage

It’s still too little too late from one of the world’s biggest polluters.

by Edward Ongweso Jr
Feb 18 2020, 8:47pm

On Monday, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos revealed on Instagram a $10 billion “Earth Fund'' aimed at fighting climate change. As Amazon employees immediately pointed out, it’s not nearly enough to undo all the environmental harms that the tech giant enacts.

"Climate change is the biggest threat to our planet,” Bezos wrote on Instagram. “I want to work alongside others both to amplify known ways and to explore new ways of fighting the devastating impact of climate change on this planet we all share." The move follows months of protests from employees and threats to fire employees for speaking out about Amazon's climate policy.

Some of those employees, the Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, responded to the news of the Earth Fund by pointing out that Amazon’s pledge seemed good on its face but was still not enough.

"The international scientific community is very clear: burning the oil in wells that oil companies already have developed means we can't save our planet from climate catastrophe," said Amazon Employees for Climate Justice in a press statement. "We applaud Jeff Bezos' philanthropy, but one hand cannot give what the other is taking away."

Amazon is one of the world’s biggest polluters, emitting 44.4 million metric tons of carbon—more than most countries in the world. The company is even spinning its refusal to end contracts with oil and gas companies as an effort to save the planet, arguing that providing Amazon Web Services software to these companies is accelerating their transition to clean energy—and their extraction of fossil fuels from the earth. In other cases, Amazon’s rapid expansion of its data centers has led to states like Virginia relying more heavily on fossil fuels to keep up with energy demands.

So far, coverage of the Earth Fund has consistently invoked Bezos’ past philanthropic initiatives to point out the good his money can do. But the bigger pattern on display here, which Earth Fund continues, is that Bezos consistently gives minuscule crumbs of his wealth to whitewash his company’s own track record on the environment and other issues.

For example, Amazon’s $690,000 donation to Australian bushfire relief efforts left little room for discussing the company’s relationship with Woodside Petroleum, Australia's largest oil and gas company, and its role in accelerating Australia's climate disaster. Meanwhile, Amazon offers services like same-day delivery to its customers—at great cost to delivery drivers and the communities that sprawling logistical operations pollute.

Amazon declined to comment for this story.

No amount of PR should distract from the fact that Amazon, and the rest of the cloud industry, seeks to extract as much profit as possible before climate catastrophe makes fossil fuel extraction untenable.

If Bezos was truly interested in stopping climate change, he would end his company’s carbon cloud contracts and radically downsize its shipping operations. Instead, we get a new, flashy billionaire fund—just a drop in the bucket for Bezos—as Amazon continues business as usual.

climate change
jeff bezos
cloud computing
Amazon Web Services
earth fund
amazon employees for climate justice