Bezos launches $10 bn fund to combat climate change

Amazon boss Bezos has announced he is committing $10 billion to a new fund to fight climate change (AFP Photo/Sajjad HUSSAIN)

Washington (AFP) - Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has pledged $10 billion to a new fund to tackle climate change but activists have urged the world's richest man to first clean up the e-commerce giant's own lacklustre environmental record.

The e-commerce tycoon said the Bezos Earth Fund would "fund scientists, activists, NGOs -- any effort that offers a real possibility to help preserve and protect the natural world."

"Climate change is the biggest threat to our planet," Bezos, whose net worth is estimated to be around $130 billion, said in an Instagram post to his 1.4 million followers on Monday.

However, Greenpeace USA said Amazon still had "massive climate issues," asking: "Why won't Bezos lead by cleaning up his own house?"

Hundreds of Amazon employees last month signed a blog criticizing the online retail giant's climate policies and demanding it do more to tackle climate change.

Amazon has been accused of creating vast amounts of waste from the packaging it uses for doorstep deliveries, as well as for the greenhouse gas emissions from huge vehicle fleets.

The company, which in December said its workforce had hit 750,000, has also been denounced over its carbon footprint because of the high energy consumption of its server farms for its lucrative cloud computing activities.

Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, the group behind last month's criticism, responded to Bezos' pledge by urging the company to stop working with oil and gas companies and swap its diesel trucks for electric vehicles.

"We applaud Jeff Bezos' philanthropy, but one hand cannot give what the other is taking away," the group said in a statement.

Bezos, who maintained his status as the world's richest person despite an expensive divorce last year, said his new foundation would begin issuing grants later this year.

"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," Bezos said in his announcement on Monday.

- Amazon's carbon targets -

Last September, he said Amazon would pledge to become carbon neutral by 2040 and vowed that the company would order 100,000 electric delivery trucks.

Rather than make investments that the business guru might profit from, the fund would allocate grant money to projects, The New York Times said, quoting unnamed sources familiar with the initiative. Bezos divulged few details on his social media post.

Bezos has often clashed with US President Donald Trump, who regularly attacks climate change activists and recently called them "perennial prophets of doom."

The fund was described as Bezos's biggest philanthropic commitment.

However the New York Times said that even if Bezos spent the full $10 billion -- approximately 7.7 percent of his fortune -- immediately, he would still be the world's richest person.

Last week, he reportedly agreed to buy a Beverly Hills mansion built in the 1930s by Hollywood movie mogul Jack Warner for $165 million, a record price for a California home.

Global corporations in all sectors have been churning out climate action plans to reduce carbon footprints and adapt to tomorrow's low-carbon economy but experts have cautioned that many of these seemingly ambitious pledges are more greenwashing than green.

Microsoft announced a plan earlier this year that would not only allow the software giant to become "carbon neutral" within a decade, but also to erase its entire carbon footprint since its creation in 1975.

But the claim partly depends on technologies that do not yet exist on a meaningful scale, such as machines that suck carbon dioxide directly out of the air.

The company also has highly lucrative deals supplying major oil and gas companies with state-of-the-art tools to boost extraction rates and supply forecasts.