Amazon Has a Fundamental Climate Change Problem
The e-commerce giant moves on global warming, but its business model is hard to square with the climate crisis.
Jeff Bezos’ recent announcement that Amazon is pledging to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Accord and achieve annual “net zero” carbon emissions by 2040 looks, on its face, like a victory for climate change activists.
The news broke on the eve of what’s being billed as “the biggest day in climate action history” — a global climate strike that thousands of Amazon employees are participating in. The organizing group coordinating Amazon employee activism, the Amazon Employees for Climate Justice (AECJ) immediately took credit for the company announcement, calling it “a huge win” for Amazon workers.
As veteran climate activist Bill McKibben told OneZero, “that’s why people organize, to get reactions like this. This crew inside Amazon are heroes.” In a separate tweet, McKibben called the Amazon pledge, which includes putting 100,000 electric delivery trucks on the streets and reaching 80% renewable energy for all its services by 2030 and 100% by 2040, “pretty significant climate actions.”
Is Amazon’s most vaunted attribute — extreme convenience at super low prices — at all compatible with going green?
There’s certainly more to be done: The AECJ is calling for Amazon to stop deploying cloud-based AWS tools specifically designed for oil and gas companies (a demand that Bezos has explicitly rejected) and to cease funding climate denialism (which Bezos has said Amazon will take a “hard look” at).
But there’s an even more fundamental question at stake: Is Amazon’s most vaunted attribute — extreme convenience at super low prices — at all compatible with going green?
Numerous reports indicate that there is an environmental cost to expedited shipping, Amazon’s bread and butter. Same-day shipping ends up putting more delivery trucks on the road without allowing for their efficient management. As UPS reported in a sustainability study it released in 2017, “more package volume means more miles and emissions.”