Amazon’s carbon emissions went up in 2020, but its carbon intensity went down, according to the company’s recent sustainability report

Amazon’s overall carbon emissions increased by 19% in 2020, the report said. This is not surprising considering the company’s emissions from direct operations alone increased by 67% year over year. That is at least partly due to the increased demand for e-commerce and the growth of the business during 2020. 

What is carbon intensity?

It’s the classic “bang for your buck.” How many grams of carbon emissions are associated with each dollar a company makes? That’s carbon intensity.

Amazon reported its carbon intensity decreased by 16%, from 122.8 grams of CO2 equivalent (CO2e) per dollar of gross merchandise in 2019 to 102.7 grams in 2020.

In short, Amazon is creating fewer greenhouse gas emissions per each dollar it makes, even as its total emissions are rising.

While improving carbon intensity is good, Danielle Fugere, president of corporate responsibility non-profit organization As You Sow, told FreightWaves that is not enough. 

“Amazon’s greenhouse gas emissions reporting demonstrates a fundamental failure in its response to climate change: growing total emissions. It isn’t enough for Amazon to become more efficient at the margins, while its greenhouse gas emissions grow year over year. Amazon founded The Climate Pledge, a commitment to net-zero emissions by 2040, yet is heading in the wrong direction by growing its total GHG emissions by 19% last year. Like other major emitters, Amazon must creatively and fundamentally restructure its business to achieve its net-zero emissions goal.

“Hopefully Jeff Bezos will come back from space with a new perspective – putting his massive creativity and resources to work on the great human challenge of avoiding catastrophic climate change,” Fugere said.

Differing last-mile and long-haul decarbonization strategies

In the last mile, Amazon is working to develop fully autonomous technology, further its drone research, continue to deploy electric-assisted cargo bikes and get more electric delivery vehicles on the road.

Amazon ordered 100,000 EVs from Rivian in 2019. The first of these were rolled out in February, and the company said 10,000 could be on the road “as early as 2022.” All 100,000 are expected to be deployed by 2030.

“Unlike last mile delivery, long-distance transport has few low-carbon technologies available. We are exploring, testing, and investing in sustainable innovations in freight and air transport to reduce emissions on our longest routes,” the report said.

Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) is among the long-distance investments the company is making. It “secured up to six million gallons of SAF” in 2020; Amazon said SAF reduces emissions up to 20%.

The Climate Pledge ramps up

Amazon co-founded The Climate Pledge Fund in 2019 with Global Optimism, an organization working to activate the “stubborn optimists of the world” on climate action. The Climate Pledge is a $2 billion investment designed to support R&D for decarbonization technologies and services. 

In April, the pledge’s number of signatories surpassed 100 companies in 16 countries. Each signatory has to commit to regularly report carbon emissions, implement decarbonization strategies to reduce emissions and offset any remaining emissions by purchasing carbon credits to reach net-zero emissions across its business by 2040.

Renewable energy expansions continue

The company said it is on track to reach 100% renewable energy across its operations by 2025. In 2020, that number was 65%, and Amazon recently became the “largest corporate buyer of renewable energy in the world.”

The company has 10 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity worldwide, including 85 utility-scale wind and solar projects and 147 solar rooftops on facilities and stores.

“Amazon’s commitment to clean energy is highly commendable, and it is the type of investment that we need to see more of to meet the world’s critical energy and climate needs,” Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, said in a release

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Alyssa Sporrer.

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