Jeff Bezos facing backlash for flying to Cop26 in private jet to lecture people on climate crisis

The Amazon founder announced a $2bn pledge to fight climate crisis in speech at summit

Megan Sheets
Tuesday 02 November 2021 18:47 GMT
Jeff Bezos’ space trip reminded him of Earth’s fragility, multibillionare tells Cop26

Jeff Bezos has come under fire for flying in a private jet to the Cop26 climate summit, where he pledged $2bn (£1.4bn) to save the planet.

The Amazon founder arrived in Glasgow, Scotland, over the weekend in his $65m (£47.6m) Gulfstream G650ER jet.

In a Tuesday speech at the summit attended by dozens of world leaders, Mr Bezos emphasised the importance of private industry taking on climate change and repeated his goal to make Amazon carbon-neutral by 2040.

He announced he will spend $2bn on restoring natural habitats and transforming food systems through his Bezos Earth Fund, to which he committed $10bn last year.

Mr Bezos’s jet was part of a fleet of about 400 that shuttled Cop26 attendees to Glasgow, according to Scotland’s Sunday Mail.

The perceived show of hypocrisy was met with an outpouring of criticism on Twitter.

Private jets are considered bad for the environment because although the amount of CO2 emitted is significantly lower than a commercial jet, they have fewer people on board and thus are much less efficient.

Some estimates say private jets produce 10 times the amount of carbon per passenger, although calculations clearly vary depending on the make and model of aircraft being compared, the length of journey and the number of passengers per flight.

A spokesperson for the Bezos Earth Fund told The Independent: “Jeff uses sustainable aviation fuel, and offsets all carbon emissions from his flights.”

Matt Finch, UK Policy Manager for the Transport & Environment campaign group, condemned Cop26 attendees’ use of private jets in an interview with the Daily Record.

“The average private jet, and we are not talking Air Force One, emits two tons of CO2 for every hour in flight. It can’t be stressed enough how bad private jets are for the environment, it is the worst way to travel by miles,” he said.

“Private jets are very prestigious but it is difficult to avoid the hypocrisy of using one while claiming to be fighting climate change.”

Mr Finch said taking a single long-haul private flight will emit more CO2 than several average citizens do in a year.

In his speech at Cop26, Mr Bezos said he realised how “fragile” Earth is after he left it on his $5.5bn space trip last month.

“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.”

Stressing the importance of stopping deforestation, Mr Bezos said: “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.”

The speech came after Mr Bezos met with Prince Charles on Sunday and took to Twitter to tout their mutual commitment to saving the environment.

“The Prince of Wales has been involved in fighting climate change and protecting our beautiful world far longer than most,” he tweeted.

“We had a chance to discuss these important issues on the eve of #COP26 — looking for solutions to heal our world, and how the @BezosEarthFund can help.”

Many critics say Mr Bezos’s efforts to stop climate change are hollow given his background. Amazon has long faced criticism for its environmental impact, and in June reported its carbon footprint had risen by 19% 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.

This story was updated to include a comment from the Bezos Earth Fund.

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