It marks the first investment from Amazon's $100 million Right Now Climate Fund, which was first unveiled last September in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, and aims to restore and protect forests, wetlands and peatlands around the world, with the goal of removing carbon from the atmosphere. The fund is a part of Amazon's "Climate Pledge," wherein the company also pledged to meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement by 2040, a decade ahead of the Paris accord's goal. President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement in 2017.
The grant will be used to expand two programs being stewarded by The Nature Conservancy, the American Forest Foundation and the Vermont Land Trust, which aim to open up carbon credit markets to small family forest owners and owners of mid-sized forests. Carbon credit programs allow companies to offset their greenhouse gas emissions by giving money to other entities or projects that are working to reduce carbon emissions. The grant makes Amazon the largest funder of these programs, the company said.
Amazon said the investment will be used to expand the programs beyond Pennsylvania and Vermont in the Appalachians and other areas of the country. The company said this would result in the removal of up to 18.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by 2031, or the equivalent of 46 billion miles driven by an average passenger vehicle.
Last September, the company revealed its own carbon footprint for the first time, reporting that it emitted 44.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2018.
Amazon has faced mounting pressure from employees to address its environmental impact. At Amazon's annual shareholder meeting last May, thousands of employees submitted a proposal asking Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to develop a comprehensive climate-change plan and reduce its carbon footprint. The proposal was built on an employee letter published last April that accused Amazon of donating to climate-delaying legislators and urged the company to transition away from fossil fuels.
In addition to the Climate Pledge, Amazon has taken other steps to tackle its environmental impact. In February, Bezos pledged $10 billion to launch a new Earth Fund for combating climate change. It will issue grants to climate-oriented scientists and activists and other organizations in their efforts to "preserve and protect the natural world."