Skip to Content
Climate change

Amazon creates a $2 billion climate fund, as it struggles to cut its own emissions

The retail giant has come under growing pressure to take aggressive action as the dangers of climate change mount.
June 23, 2020
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos
Amazon CEO Jeff BezosCourtesy: Amazon

Amazon launched a $2 billion venture fund to invest in companies developing ways to cut greenhouse-gas emissions, marking the latest corporate effort to allocate major resources to combating climate change.

Investment areas: In a press release, Amazon said the new fund would focus on startups that could help it and other businesses achieve “net zero” emissions by 2040. It will invest across a wide array of industries, including transportation, energy generation, energy storage, manufacturing, materials, and agriculture.

What’s behind the move? The Seattle retail giant has come under growing pressure from the public and its own employees to shrink its environmental footprint as the dangers of global warming grow. Hundreds of workers walked out of the company’s offices last September to join the global climate strike ahead of the UN Climate Summit that month, part of an effort to push Amazon to take more aggressive steps.

Earlier Amazon efforts: Several days later, Amazon committed to achieve “net zero” emissions by 2040, which means it would need to offset any remaining emissions from its operations through investments in carbon removal projects, such as forest restoration or carbon capture machines. In February, chief executive Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest person, announced he would donate $10 billion of his personal fortune to scientists, activists, and NGOs working to address climate change.

Other corporate initiatives: Amazon is following in the footsteps of another Seattle-area tech behemoth. Earlier this year, Microsoft announced it would spend $1 billion on “carbon reduction, capture, and removal technologies,” as part of an effort to offset the software company’s emissions across its entire history. And back in 2016, cofounder Bill Gates established Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a $1 billion fund dedicated to backing green energy startups.

Bottom line: More money for clean technology is always welcome news. But Amazon still has plenty of work to do on reducing its own emissions, which rose 15% last year to more than 50 million metric tons. And relying on carbon removal projects to offset corporate emissions creates serious challenges, given uncertainties about the permanence and effectiveness of various offset practices like planting trees.

Critics will also note that Amazon—which posted nearly $12 billion in profit last year and has nearly $30 billion in cash on hand—could easily afford to invest far more than $2 billion on these problems. And they will be right.

Deep Dive

Climate change

This CRISPR pioneer wants to capture more carbon with crops

New research at Jennifer Doudna's institute aims to create faster-growing, carbon-hungry plants using the gene-editing tool.

giant kelp underwater
giant kelp underwater

Running Tide is facing scientist departures and growing concerns over seaweed sinking for carbon removal

The venture-backed startup believes kelp could be a powerful tool to combat climate change. But some scientists fear the ecological risks on large scales.

biomass with Charm mobile unit in background
biomass with Charm mobile unit in background

Inside Charm Industrial’s big bet on corn stalks for carbon removal

The startup used plant matter and bio-oil to sequester thousands of tons of carbon. The question now is how reliable, scalable, and economical this approach will prove.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.