Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced a broad plan on Thursday to fight climate change, including meeting the Paris climate agreement 10 years early, which will make the company carbon neutral by 2040.
As part of this pledge to fight climate change, Bezos announced Amazon will purchase 100,000 electric vans. These vehicles will begin making deliveries in 2021 and all 100,000 will be deployed by 2024, Bezos said.
The vans will come from the electric vehicle company Rivian. Amazon led a $700 million investment round in the company earlier this year.
Bezos laid out the pledge alongside Christiana Figueres, the United Nations’ former climate change chief, at an event held by the National Press Club in Washington, DC. In his remarks, Bezos described the planet as the best in the solar system and said more needs to be done to take care of it.
“The climate science community is surprised by how quickly things are changing,” Bezos said. “We’ve been in the middle of the herd on this issue and we want to move to the forefront.”
Amazon has been criticized for the environmental impact of its emphasis on faster and faster shipping. There can be tradeoffs between delivery speed and carbon emissions. With Prime, its premium membership service, Amazon offers free two-day shipping on millions of items with no minimum order size. Amazon and its competitors are trying to figure out how to balance environmental impacts while still satisfying customers who want speedy deliveries.
Amazon’s announcement followed a recent pledge from 1,550 Amazon employees to walk out in protest of what they call inaction on climate change. The group, known as the Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, issued a statement Thursday calling Bezos’ announcement a huge win. But they said it’s not enough and they will still walk out Friday.
“We’re thrilled at what workers have been able to achieve in less than a year,” they said in a statement. “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.”
At one point on Thursday, Bezos openly disagreed with Amazon employees who have called on the company to no longer sign cloud computing contracts with oil and gas companies. Bezos said Amazon should aid them in their transition from fossil fuels.
“We should and we need to help them instead of vilify them,” he said.
Amazon previously set what it described as “an ambitious goal” of being carbon neutral on 50% of all Amazon shipments by 2030.
Amazon called on other businesses to sign its climate pledge, which includes measuring and reporting greenhouse gas emissions on a regular basis. Under the pledge, businesses would also need to implement decarbonization strategies and neutralize remaining emissions with carbon offsets.
Amazon also announced a $100 million reforestation fund. Bezos called it a nature-based solution to removing carbon.