Amazon’s greenhouse gas emissions ballooned dramatically last year despite the company’s efforts to sell itself as a leader in climate action. Carbon dioxide emissions grew 18% in 2021 compared to 2020, according to the latest sustainability report.
Amazon produced 71.54 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent last year, the same amount of pollution that 180 gas-powered power plants would pump out annually. This is the second year in a row that Amazon’s climate pollution has grown in double digits since it made the Climate Pact and began publicly reporting its emissions in 2019. Comparing that year to 2021, the company’s CO2 pollution grew by a whopping 40 percent.
In 2019, then-CEO Jeff Bezos announced that the company plans to reach net carbon dioxide emissions for its operations by 2040. Unfortunately, this kind of pledge allows companies to get away with some misguided carbon accounting. They could aim to achieve “zero” emissions or claim to be “carbon neutral” by purchasing carbon offsets that are supposed to offset the impact of their emissions through supposedly environmentally friendly projects. This usually includes planting trees, protecting forests, or promoting clean energy. However, these compensations do not usually lead to real-world reductions in the accumulation of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere.
Amazon co-founded an initiative called the Climate Pledge in 2019 to hire other companies to make similar commitments to reduce carbon dioxide and “neutralize” residual emissions through “credible” compensation. But the meaningful impact on the climate only comes from the company eliminating the vast majority of its pollution, if not all of its emissions.
Amazon doesn’t provide a good example of this – despite the company’s best PR efforts. To take the heat off its increasing absolute carbon emissions, Amazon cites a more satisfying number in its sustainability report. “The focus should not only be on a company’s carbon footprint in terms of absolute carbon emissions, but also on whether it lowers its carbon intensity,” the report says.
Amazon says it has reduced its “carbon intensity” by a small percentage – 1.9 percent – which means the emissions it produces for every dollar of goods sold. Fell a little. But this metric can also be misleading because those reductions in carbon intensity can easily be eliminated as the company’s business grows.
This is exactly what happened at Amazon. “As we work to decarbonize our company, Amazon is growing rapidly. We have expanded our business at an unprecedented pace to help meet the needs of our customers through the pandemic,” the company says in its sustainability report. In other words, Amazon committed murder during the COVID-19 pandemic as e-commerce escalated — and Amazon’s pollution grew along with its profits.
All of this explains why it’s important to look at a company’s entire carbon footprint to see if it’s reducing emissions overall. To make matters worse, it’s possible that Amazon’s numbers are less than the amount of pollution the e-commerce giant is really responsible for because – unlike some other companies, including Target – Amazon doesn’t include the emissions that come from making many of the products it makes. sell it.
And while tracking carbon dioxide emissions is critical to tackling the climate crisis that’s causing heat waves, droughts, wildfires, storms and other devastating disasters — it doesn’t capture the full spectrum of problems associated with Amazon’s burgeoning warehouses and all those smiling — diesel trucks making delivery. For many years, many of the communities in which Amazon builds company warehouses have called outside to bring 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.