Amazon, as in the corporation, is investing in the Amazon, as in the rainforest. The multinational conglomerate announced the new initiative on Tuesday, saying it will help fight the climate crisis. But in doing so, Amazon conveniently skirted addressing its own role in fuelling that crisis. Surprise, surprise.
Amazon announced a partnership with the global environmental nonprofit the Nature Conservancy, with whom it’s teamed up on reforestation work before. The groups say the project will pay local farmers in Brazil’s Amazonian state of Pará — which has been ravaged by deforestation for logging, mining, cattle ranching, and soybean farming — to restore native forests and thereby boost carbon sequestration in the region.
The initiative, called the Agroforestry and Restoration Accelerator, comes as a part of the company’s flashy 2019 climate pledge, in which it committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2040. But of course, like everything about that pledge, the new announcement doesn’t actually require Amazon make any changes to its business practices in the name of sustainability.
Amazon’s entire business model is high-polluting. It prides itself on its ability to deliver customers goods on the same day they place orders, which is a climate nightmare due to all the associated emissions from shipping, trucking, and aviation. Despite its showy climate promises, its carbon footprint rose by 20% last year. The year before that, it rose by 15%.
So how does the company plan to reach net-zero emissions if it keeps emitting more and more? It relies on carbon crediting projects like this new one with Nature Conservancy which will allow it to theoretically offset emissions.
These types of schemes are particularly popular with greenhouse gas-intensive industries like oil and aviation. But offsetting can be rife with problems. A recent ProPublica investigation found that sometimes they actually add carbon to the atmosphere. They can also be horrifically unjust. Even if Amazon’s new project doesn’t have those issues, it won’t actually undo pollution.
Even beyond its own carbon footprint, Amazon has long been known for talking out of both sides of its mouth on the climate crisis. As it’s made splashy pledges like this one, it’s also spent years helping oil and gas companies more efficiently extract fossil fuels with its cloud computing technology, funding climate-denying think tanks, and threatening to fire employees who point out these inconsistencies.
This isn’t to say we shouldn’t invest in some reforestation efforts. But we shouldn’t trust polluting companies like Amazon to control them. Instead, couldn’t we just tax the hell out of it so we can decide how to spend the resulting funds democratically?