Amazon vows to be carbon neutral by 2040, buying 100,000 electric vans

By REUTERS | 20 September 2019


Bezos speaking at a press conference in Washington ahead of the upcoming Climate Week in New York. On the left screen is an image of the Rivian electric van Amazon has ordered.


WASHINGTON: Amazon.com Inc chief executive officer Jeff Bezos on Thursday pledged to make the largest US e-commerce company net carbon neutral by 2040 and to buy 100,000 electric delivery vans from a start-up, as employees and consumers around the world plan protests to address climate change.

Cutting emissions is a challenging goal for Amazon, which delivers 10 billion items a year and has a massive transportation and data center footprint. “We know we can do it and we know we have to do it,” said Bezos.

Bezos announced a number of actions at a press conference here ahead of the upcoming Climate Week in New York, a global gathering of world and company leaders seeking ways to fight climate change. Global marches to push for climate action are planned for Friday.

The Amazon vans, under the exclusive deal, will be built at Rivian’s plant, a former Mitsubishi factory in Normal, Illinois, said Rivian spokesman Amy Mast. The first vehicles will be delivered in 2021 and 10,000 should be on the road by late 2022, she said. The vehicles will be serviced by Rivian.

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Rivian CEO R.J. Scaringe has described the Rivian vehicle’s platform as a skateboard that packages the drive units, battery pack, suspension system, brakes and cooling system all below wheel height to allow for more storage space and greater stability due to a lower centre of gravity.

Amazon and Ford Motor Co are among the investors in Rivian. Bezos said the first electric delivery vans for Amazon will be on the road by 2021, and all 100,000 will be deployed by 2024. A Rivian spokesman said 10,000 of the vehicles for Amazon will be on the road by late 2022.

Plymouth, Michigan-based Rivian, founded in 2009, has raised close to US$1.9 billion from investors, including a US$700 million February round led by Amazon.

Amazon is the first major company to announce such a goal by 2040, according to US non-profit group Ceres, which works with companies on sustainability commitments.

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“What Amazon has announced today is groundbreaking and potentially game-changing,” said Sue Reid, vice president of climate and energy at Ceres. “This will certainly have ripple effects because Amazon is so intertwined with the entire economy.”

Bezos said Amazon will meet the goals of the Paris climate accord 10 years ahead of the accord’s schedule, and it will use 100% renewable energy by 2030, up from 40% today. The Trump administration said in June 2017 it was withdrawing from the Paris climate accord.

Environmental advocacy group Greenpeace USA welcomed the commitment, but a spokesman said the company still lags peers Google, Apple and Facebook in transparency around its renewable projects.

Amazon also pledged to buy 100,000 electric delivery vehicles from US vehicle design and manufacturing startup Rivian Automotive LLC.

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The company said Amazon currently has 30,000 vehicles delivering customer orders in the United States. That excludes vans from United Parcel Service Inc and the US Postal Service, which are also carrying non-Amazon parcels.

Amazon will invest US$100 million to restore forests and wetlands, said Bezos, adding the company will take a “careful look” at political campaign contributions it makes that could be going to politicians that deny climate science.

Amazon previously said it would order 20,000 delivery vans from Daimler AG. Bezos did not put a total dollar figure on the efforts to decarbonise but said many of the initiatives would save money.

Impact of faster delivery

Moreover, the company’s move to accelerate delivery to same-day or next-day has the counterintuitive effect of decreasing carbon emissions, Bezos said. “Once you get to one day and same day, because you are eliminating the possibility of air transportation, you have to get those products closer to the customer,” he said.

He vowed to try to convince other company CEOs to sign on to Amazon’s plan, called The Climate Pledge.

Amazon workers who have pushed the company to take action on climate change called the plan a “huge win” but not enough. Amazon should halt support of the fossil-fuel industry and politicians that deny climate change, the Amazon Employees for Climate Justice group said in a tweet. They plan to join climate awareness marches on Friday.

Bezos said Amazon would continue to work with energy companies. “To ask oil and energy companies to do this transition with bad tools is not a good idea and we won’t do that,” Bezos said.

A proposal that the company report how it plans to deal with climate change received 29.8% of votes at Amazon’s shareholder meeting in May after garnering signatures from nearly 7,700 employees.


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