The danger of Amazon’s $ 2 billion climate fund

Illustration for the article titled The Danger of Amazon's $ 2 Billion Climate Fund

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On Tuesday, Amazon released a brilliant new addition to its imperfect climate plan: A $ 2 Billion Venture Fund for Low Carbon and Low Carbon Technology. It is instantly one of the largest, if not the largest, climate risk funds. But it also shows a fatal flaw that runs through Amazon’s thinking, and capital in general, about the weather.

At first, blush a $ 2 billion climate fund, which is separate from CEO Jeff Bezos philanthropic climate personal initiative“Sure sounds good.” We can all agree that spending money on weather solutions is generally good, so I congratulate you, Amazon. The fact that the company has done something good can be largely attributed to the employees who have the company fought teeth and nails to be a better corporate citizen. It is almost certain that there would be no Amazon climate promise, no $ 2 billion fund, no all-electric vehicle commitment without Amazon Employees for Climate Justice putting the screws on the company. So actually, cheers to AECJ.

However, there is a catch for all the cheers, beyond the fact that Amazon has been speaking both sides from his mouth in the weather for a while now. Hell, even when he announced this new fund, like The Verge useful notes, Amazon’s carbon footprint rose 15 percent last year. In your ad, Amazon said The fund “will invest in visionary companies whose products and solutions will facilitate the transition to a low-carbon economy. … The Climate Pledge Fund’s reach is global and will consider investments in companies that develop products or services that reduce carbon emissions and help preserve the natural world. “

Basing your investment decisions solely on how much carbon is cut ignores the fact that not all climate solutions will be distributed equally. Amazon’s commitment to using the venture capitalist model to finance solutions ensures that the world will remain uneven (or worse, grow even more). Amazon could borrow a page from AECJ first open letter to Bezos written a year ago, asking the company to focus first on solutions that reduce harm to the most vulnerable communities. ” A radically different strategy would be required for Amazon, putting human life and equality on par or even above profit. But without it, the company will only perpetuate the same uneven world.

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While it remains to be seen what kind of climate solutions Amazon will back with the fund, the company has already made it quite clear that it doesn’t understand that this is not a technocratic problem. The real problem is not that we are waiting for a “visionary” company or “products or services” that magically solve the climate crisis. We could do it with the technology available to us today!

No, the real problem is that we have a severely restricted political system captured by the multi-million dollar class and the fossil fuel industry that refuses to bear the burden of government. It is that companies like Amazon can pollute with impunity and accumulate unfathomable amounts of money while doing so.

That concentration of wealth has helped fuel the fabulously carbon-intensive lifestyles from the CEO, Amazon shareholders and the rich, plutocratic and famous, all while putting poor people at greater risk of losing everything to climate disasters and exposure to toxic pollution. In other words, climate change and inequality are inextricably linked, and any effort to combat one that does not include one focus on the other will only perpetuate a broken system.

The venture capital mindset already focuses on financing companies that maximize profits by trapping people in the gig economy or fostering inequality. The people most at risk in a world devastated by climate change are not the ones who will directly benefit from the lunar climate idea of ​​some startups and, in some cases, could suffer from Amazon’s investments. Natural solutions to climate change such as managing forests to absorb carbon dioxide have often been used as an excuse for displace indigenous peoples from their land A border wall with solar panels to generate local electricity remains a symbol of hatred and oppression. Innovation alone is not enough. Any investment that ignores this reality will end up being tremendously dangerous and wrong. Doing this project well would require Amazon to focus not only on how much carbon a project could reduce, but what its actual impact would be on the most vulnerable.

Investing $ 2 billion in climate solutions and reaping the rewards of a ownership stake in companies seeking technology solutions to the climate will also allow Bezos, who has seen his fortune balloon for tens of billions of dollars since the pandemic began, and his company to take advantage of the climate crisis and at the same time worsen the inequality crisis. It is the exact type of “false change” Anand Giridharadas has warned about as a way to keep the plutocrats on top.

But then he Amazon model He’s always put profits on people, pounding workers into comparative misery and playing hard with local politicians while reaping billions in profit. If Amazon wanted, it could clean up its own carbon emissions. The company could stop giving money to elected officials who deny climate change. Could stop allowing oil and gas companies use your cloud computing for the exploration of fossil fuels. His board could have endorsed the environmental justice resolution.

All of those options would be far more meaningful than a $ 2 billion venture capital fund. They also require Amazon to do the right thing on people’s part and perhaps take a hit on your bottom line (which you could surely afford). Instead, it is taking Amazon’s money and power model to climate solutions. If the world follows the Amazon route, it will end up being a place where wind turbines swirl over continued systemic injustice and erode democracy. For my part, I would prefer not to go that way.