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Amazon vows to be carbon neutral by 2040, buying 100,000 electric vans

By David Shepardson and Nandita Bose
FILE PHOTO: The logo of Amazon is seen at the company logistics centre in Boves

By David Shepardson and Nandita Bose

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Amazon.com Inc <AMZN.O> Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos on Thursday pledged to make the largest U.S. e-commerce company net carbon neutral by 2040 and to buy 100,000 electric delivery vans from a start-up, as employees and consumers around the world plan protests to address climate change.

Cutting emissions is a challenging goal for Amazon, which delivers 10 billion items a year and has a massive transportation and data center footprint. "We know we can do it and we know we have to do it," Bezos said.

Bezos announced a number of actions at a press conference in Washington ahead of the upcoming Climate Week in New York, a global gathering of world and company leaders seeking ways to fight climate change. Global marches to push for climate action are planned for Friday.

Amazon is the first major corporation to announce such a goal by 2040, according to U.S. non-profit group Ceres, which works with companies on sustainability commitments.

"What Amazon has announced today is groundbreaking and potentially game-changing," said Sue Reid, vice president of climate and energy at Ceres. "This will certainly have ripple effects because Amazon is so intertwined with the entire economy."

Bezos said Amazon will meet the goals of the Paris climate accord 10 years ahead of the accord's schedule, and it will use 100% renewable energy by 2030, up from 40% today. The Trump administration said in June 2017 it was withdrawing from the Paris climate accord.

Environmental advocacy group Greenpeace USA welcomed the commitment, but a spokesman said the company still lags peers Google <GOOGL.O>, Apple <AAPL.O> and Facebook <FB.O> in transparency around its renewable projects.

Amazon also pledged to buy 100,000 electric delivery vehicles from U.S. vehicle design and manufacturing startup Rivian Automotive LLC.

Amazon and Ford Motor Co <F.N> are among the investors in Rivian. Bezos said the first electric delivery vans for Amazon will be on the road by 2021, and all 100,000 will be deployed by 2024. A Rivian spokeswoman said 10,000 of the vehicles for Amazon will be on the road by late 2022.

The company said Amazon currently has 30,000 vehicles delivering customer orders in the United States. That excludes vans from United Parcel Service Inc <UPS.N> and the U.S. Postal Service, which are also carrying non-Amazon parcels.

Amazon will invest $100 million to restore forests and wetlands, said Bezos, adding the company will take a "careful look" at political campaign contributions it makes that could be going to politicians that deny climate science.

Amazon previously said it would order 20,000 delivery vans from Daimler AG <DAIGn.DE>. Bezos did not put a total dollar figure on the efforts to decarbonize but said many of the initiatives would save money.


IMPACT OF FASTER DELIVERY

Moreover, the company's move to accelerate delivery to same-day or next-day has the counterintuitive effect of decreasing carbon emissions, Bezos said. "Once you get to one day and same day, because you are eliminating the possibility of air transportation, you have to get those products closer to the customer," he said.

He vowed to try to convince other company CEOs to sign on to Amazon's plan, called The Climate Pledge.

Amazon workers who have pushed the company to take action on climate change called the plan a "huge win" but not enough. Amazon should halt support of the fossil-fuel industry and politicians that deny climate change, the Amazon Employees for Climate Justice group said in a tweet. They plan to join climate awareness marches on Friday.

Bezos said Amazon would continue to work with energy companies. "To ask oil and energy companies to do this transition with bad tools is not a good idea and we won't do that," Bezos said.

A proposal that the company report how it plans to deal with climate change received 29.8% of votes at Amazon's shareholder meeting in May after garnering signatures from nearly 7,700 employees.


(Reporting by David Shepardson; Additional reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit and Jeffrey Dastin and Peter Henderson in San Francisco editing by David Gregorio, Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Cynthia Osterman)