Cop26: Jeff Bezos says space trip taught him of ‘Earth’s fragility’ as Amazon founder pledges $2bn for nature

‘We must conserve what we still have,’ says multibillionaire whose firm has faced criticism over impact on environment

Louise Boyle
At Cop26 in Glasgow
Tuesday 02 November 2021 18:54
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Jeff Bezos’ space trip reminded him of Earth’s fragility, multibillionare tells Cop26
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Earth is beautiful but fragile, Jeff Bezos has told Cop26 – something he realised when he left it on his $5.5bn space trip.

The Amazon founder appeared at the climate summit in Glasgow today to announce a $2bn investment to restore natural habitats and make food systems more resilient.

The multi-billionaire described for the global audience his 10-minute flight on his Blue Origin rocket this past July.

“I was told that seeing the Earth from space changes the lens through which you view the world,” he said.

“But I was not prepared for just how much that would be true. Looking back at Earth from up there the atmosphere seems so thin, the world so finite and so fragile.”

Mr Bezos spoke shortly after US president Joe Biden, British prime minister Boris Johnson, Democratic Republic of the Congo president Felix Tshisekedi, and other world leaders announced a global pact to end deforestation within the decade.

More than 100 leaders are part of the pact, representing countries that account for 85 per cent of forests, including the Brazilian Amazon and the Congo Basin.

The pledge was backed by $12bn of public funding from governments with a further $7.2bn coming from private investment, and has been described by the UK government as the first major achievement of Cop26.

Mr Bezos, who is worth an estimated $196.3bn, told the audience that the private sector had a pivotal role to play in this campaign.

“We must conserve what we still have, we must restore what we’ve lost and we must grow what we need to live without degrading the planet for future generations,” he said.

“Two thirds of the land in Africa is degraded, but this can be reversed. Restoration can improve soil fertility, raise yields and improve food security, make water more reliable, create jobs and boost economic growth, while also sequestering carbon.”

Intact tropical forests are crucial to slowing climate change and keeping within the bounds of the 1.5C goal of the Paris Agreement. Old-growth trees in particular are incredibly efficient at pulling carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in a process called carbon sequestration.

Mr Bezos’ pledge is part of the efforts of his Bezos Earth Fund, to which he has given $10bn.

Amazon has long faced criticism for its environmental impact, and in June reported its carbon footprint had risen by 19 per cent as it rushed to deliver a surge of online orders during the pandemic.

The online shopping behemoth said activities tied to its businesses emitted 60.64 million metric tons of carbon dioxide last year – the equivalent of burning through 140 million barrels of oil.

Amazon’s carbon footprint has risen every year since 2018, when it first disclosed its carbon footprint after employees pressured it to do so.

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