On Monday, Amazon CEO and richest-man-on-Earth Jeff Bezos announced he was pledging $10 billion towards fighting climate change. His plan starts with putting the money into something called the 'Bezos Earth Fund.' Any cash in the fund will be used to provide grants to "scientists, activists, NGOs" and "any effort that offers a real possibility to help preserve and protect the natural world." The grants will be issued starting this summer.
"Climate change is the biggest threat to our planet," he wrote on Instagram. "I want to work alongside others both to amplify known ways and to explore new ways of fighting the devastating impact of climate change on this planet we all share."
Any other specifics, such as how groups can qualify for the grants, are scant. But this fund has already caught some attention for being Bezos' largest charitable effort so far, according to Earther. The $10 billion amounts to about eight percent of his total wealth. Before this, he had contributed $2 billion towards improving early education and reducing homelessness through the Day 1 Fund.
His announcement on Instagram hints at his hope to be a role model for other contributors. "It's going to take collective action from big companies, small companies, nation states, global organizations, and individuals," he wrote. "Earth is the one thing we all have in common — let's protect it, together."
Despite the positive news, Jeff Bezos is probably not the Tony Stark you are looking for. The money for the fund will come from Bezos' personal bank, so he's not likely going to invent some Amazon-branded ocean cleanup machine — in fact, his announcement didn't mention Amazon at all. This is purely a Bezos project, which is interesting considering he's somewhat infamous for being uncharitable or donating very little in comparison to his massive wealth (currently estimated to be $129.6 billion). Online comments have expressed curiosity over how the funds will be distributed. And skeptics remain, well, skeptical of his commitment to a cause he has been accused of ignoring in the past.
The members of Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, a collection of Amazon employees who are pushing the company to adopt more environmentally friendly practices, have already commended and questioned Bezos' intentions. While Bezos is personally contributing to healing the Earth, Amazon's business practices still actively damage the it, they pointed out. In 2018, the company disclosed that it produced approximately 44.40 million metric tons of carbon emissions equivalent through its usual business, which is an amount that rivals the emissions produced by some small countries. Unless the tech company enacts greater changes — beyond what Amazon has already promised through its climate pledge — the group maintains that this act of philanthropy is still not enough.
"We applaud Jeff Bezos' philanthropy," they wrote in a statement, "but one hand cannot give what the other is taking away."
Bezos is not the only billionaire looking to put a dent in the climate change crisis. Bill Gates (with an estimated wealth of about $113 billion) has also made an effort to work closely with environmental researchers and innovators while donating $310 million to a project that will help small farmers adapt to climate change. The company he founded, Microsoft, has also pledged to go 'carbon negative' by 2030.