Amazon Plans to Cut Shipping Emissions With Shipment Zero

Amazon announced in a blog on Monday an ambitious initiative called “Shipment Zero” — the company intends to have 50% of all its shipments be net zero carbon by 2030.  The company said that lower costs to consumers also means lowering the environmental toll of their business as well.  In order to achieve this goal, the company has spent two years mapping its carbon footprint, both to know what to measure against for reductions, but also to learn where they could reduce energy use.

  • The company sees a path to achieve this by increasing its use of renewable energy, and through improvements in electric vehicles for deliveries, aviation biofuels (see our other story today about the need to scale up supply), and pushing suppliers on reusable packaging.
  • Amazon says that they will make their baseline carbon emissions number public later this year, and will be transparent about their progress towards the goal as well.  

This pledge comes a week after Greenpeace issued a scathing report called “Clicking Clean Virginia” arguing that Amazon has not met its “high profile commitments to power its data centers with 100 percent renewable energy,” and thus “the expansion of Amazon and other cloud computing giants in Virginia’s ‘Data Center Alley’ is further fueling climate change with new demand for dirty energy.”

Virginia is “ground zero” of “the cloud” — it houses 70% of the world’s internet data transmission and storage facilities. Of the big data center (cloud storage) operators, Facebook in Virginia uses 37% renewable energy, Microsoft uses 34%, Amazon uses 12%, and Google uses 4% renewables, according to Greenpeace Apple comes the closest to achieving 100% renewable energy in Virginia.

Why This Matters:  It has been a tough week for Amazon.  The carefully worded carbon commitment is limited to just shipping — not to its other energy demands.  But it is hard to see how the company can achieve this shipping goal given their lack of progress toward using more renewables in their data centers.  More renewable energy needs to be developed and soon if Amazon is going to be able to achieve its ambitious carbon footprint reductions across its various business lines.  But Amazon is not alone — all the big tech companies are falling behind with the exception of Apple.  This begs the question, what more can and should these companies be willing to do to make their clean energy commitments?  And how could or should the Green New Deal help them?

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