While it was clear at this year’s UN assembly, that it is going to be an uphill struggle to get certain world leaders to sign up to new climate change commitments, a considerable amount of corporates have come forward with pledges to curb global warming. This week Amazon was the latest firm to come forward with big plans to reduce its environmental footprint.
Despite the fact that the UN’s Climate Summit, was preceded by one of the largest environmental protests that the world has ever seen, commitments from some of the worst C02-emmitting culprits, fell short of the mark. 60 world leaders announced new climate targets and 66 countries committed to reaching «net zero» carbon emissions by the middle of the century, but commentators have said that not enough was pledged to achieve the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s target of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius or ideally 1.5 degrees.
On the other hand, as Greta Thunberg continues to win hearts and minds, corporates are getting serious about chipping in to do their bit.
Amazon, the online commerce giant which delivers more than 10 billion packages per annum, made headlines this month when the CEO, Jeff Bezos pledged to make his company carbon neutral by 2040 - ten years ahead of the Paris Accord’s goal of 2050.
Amazon run on 100% renewable energy by 2030
By co-founding The Climate Pledge (in association with Global Optimism, a purpose driven enterprise founded by Christiana Figueres, the heroic figure of the Paris Climate Agreement), the objective is also to inspire and invite other companies to make similar commitments.
The tech tycoon also revealed that his company emitted 44.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2018. For context, this huge environmental footprint is nearly as big as that of an entire country such as Switzerland or Denmark.
Bezos said Amazon will be running on 100% renewable energy by 2030, up from 40% today, but did not discuss the costs associated with the project. The CEO said: “We've been in the middle of the herd on this issue and we want to move to the forefront”. Further still, Bezos said that Amazon will also invest $100m to reforestation and take a «careful look» at its political campaign contributions to assess whether they are falling into the hands of those politicians (and lobbyists) that deny the science behind climate change.
This, in some senses, seems to represent a case of the tail wagging the dog. Even in the absence of national legislation, corporations are stepping up and acknowledging their duty to society (undoubtedly realizing the long-run implications of doing nothing, whereby putting one’s head in the sand is becoming less socially acceptable). Indeed, Amazon’s announcement came on the eve of mass climate strikes showing that Amazon’s employees have clearly played an active role, pressuring the company to combat climate change.
Back in May of this year, it was thanks to the corporate world that the UK government legislated climate neutrality by 2050. More than 120 leading UK businesses, investors and business networks, including the John Lewis Partnership, BT, Aviva, Arup, Coca-Cola and Kingfisher petitioned for this move.
In many cases, the private sector and subnational actors are moving faster than national governments. While some criticized Greta Thunberg’s speech at the UN summit, saying that nobody explained to Greta that the modern world is complicated and complex. Corporates are putting their best foot forward to understand this new complex reality, understanding that being sustainable could soon be a company’s biggest asset, rather than a liability or an extra, unnecessary cost as some see it today.