Amazon climate pollution is getting worse

Amazon’s greenhouse gas emissions soared last year despite the company’s efforts to sell itself as a leader on climate action. Its carbon dioxide emissions grew 18 percent in 2021 compared to 2020, according to its latest sustainability report.

Amazon generated 71.54 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent last year, almost as much pollution as 180 gas-fired power plants could pump out annually. This is the second year in a row that Amazon’s climate pollution has increased by double digits since it made a splashy climate promise and began reporting its emissions publicly in 2019. Comparing that year to 2021, the company’s CO2 pollution actually has increased by 40 percent. .

In 2019, then-CEO Jeff Bezos announced that the company planned to achieve net-zero carbon dioxide emissions from its operations by 2040. Unfortunately, that kind of commitment allows companies to get away with misleading carbon accounting. They may aim to achieve “net zero” emissions or claim to be “carbon neutral” by purchasing carbon offsets that are supposed to cancel the impact of their emissions through supposedly green projects. That usually involves planting trees, protecting forests, or promoting clean energy. Those trade-offs, however, typically don’t result in real-world reductions in planet-warming CO2 accumulating in our atmosphere.

Amazon co-founded an initiative called “Climate Commitment” in 2019 to enlist other companies to make similar commitments to reduce CO2 and “neutralize” leftover emissions with “credible” offsets. But a significant impact on the climate only comes from a company getting rid of the vast majority of its pollution, if not eliminating all of its emissions.

Amazon isn’t setting a good example of that, despite the company’s best PR efforts. To alleviate its growing absolute carbon emissions, Amazon is targeting a more flattering number in its sustainability report. “The focus should not be solely on a company’s carbon footprint in terms of absolute carbon emissions, but also on whether it is reducing its carbon intensity,” the report says.

Amazon says it reduced its “carbon intensity” by a small number, 1.9 percent, which means the emissions it produces for every dollar of merchandise sold. fall gently. But this metric can also be misleading because those reductions in carbon intensity are easily wiped out as the company’s business grows.

That is exactly what happened at Amazon. “As we work to decarbonize our business, Amazon is growing rapidly. We have scaled our business at an unprecedented rate to help meet the needs of our customers during the pandemic,” the company says in its sustainability report. In other words, Amazon made a killing during the COVID-19 pandemic as e-commerce increased, and Amazon’s pollution grew along with its profits.

All of this demonstrates why it’s important to look at a company’s full carbon footprint to see if it’s really reducing emissions overall. To make matters worse, the figures Amazon is reporting are likely an underestimate of how much pollution the e-commerce giant is actually responsible for because, unlike other companies including Target, Amazon doesn’t include emissions that come from making many of the products it sells.

And while tracking carbon dioxide emissions is important in dealing with the climate crisis that is causing devastating heat waves, droughts, wildfires, storms and other disasters, it doesn’t capture the full spectrum of problems associated with warehouses. from Amazon and all those smileys- in front of diesel trucks making deliveries. For years, many communities where Amazon builds warehouses have criticized the company for bringing more smog, soot and noise into their neighborhoods. This latest report shows that Amazon still has a long way to go to prevent all the pollution it creates.

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