Jeff Bezos on Monday pledged to give $1 billion to global conservation efforts, the most details offered to date on how the billionaire plans to dispense with the $10 billion he’s pledged to battle climate change as soon as 2030.
He’s also the latest high-profile figure to prioritize the historically undercounted role of biodiversity on health and long-term economic prosperity, and not just by targeting fossil fuels
Some scientists blame biodiversity loss for increased risk of pandemics, including COVID-19. Protecting natural areas such as old-growth forests and wetlands also helps store carbon and filter water.
In a statement, the Bezos Earth Fund said the $1 billion will play a key role in carrying out the Biden administration’s “30×30” commitment — “a goal to protect 30% of land and sea by 2030 to prevent mass extinctions and bolster resilience to climate change.”
The Earth Fund plans to give about $1 billion a year over the next decade to climate and conservation causes. Efforts will focus on Africa’s Congo Basin, South America’s tropical Andes and tropical parts of the Pacific Ocean. Monday’s announcement marked the first time the Earth Fund had launched a website to shed some light on its efforts.
“The natural world is not better today than it was 500 years ago, when we enjoyed unspoiled forests, clean rivers, and the pristine air of the pre-industrial age,” Bezos, the Amazon.com Inc.
founder who stepped down as CEO earlier this year, said in a statement. “We can and must reverse this anomaly. By coming together with the right focus and ingenuity, we can have both the benefits of our modern lives and a thriving natural world.”
Bezos will spend the $10 billion by 2030, he said earlier this year. Shelling out $10 billion in under a decade is a relatively quick timeline in the philanthropy world, which is sometimes criticized for its turtle-like pace.
Bezos is currently the world’s second-wealthiest individual, with a fortune of about $194 billion, according to Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index.
His philanthropy is also focused on developing a nationwide network of free preschools, and he recently announced a prize honoring “courage and civility,” with the first two recipients, Van Jones and José Andrés, receiving $100 million each to hand out to charities of their choosing.
And Bezos has put a large slice of his fortune and time into space exploration. His historic, civillian-led Blue Origin space flight earlier this year used relatively clean fuel and inspired Bezos to recommit to spend to try to save Earth given his new vantage point, he said.
But his push among billionaires to compete with more and more suborbital missions has many asking what the impact on climate change might be. And the concern is elevated with the deadly heat, droughts, floods and wildfires dominating earthly headlines.
Bezos announced earlier this year he had hired Andrew Steer, who at the time led the World Resources Institute, a research organization, to lead the efforts of the Bezos Earth Fund. According to its new website, Bezos’s life partner, Lauren Sanchez, is vice chair of the fund.
The $1 billion allocation was praised by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Colombian President Iván Duque Márquez, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed and U.S. climate envoy John Kerry. Several major announcements and multinational collaboration are taking precedent ahead of what’s seen a key turning point in the climate fight when global leaders meet in Glasgow in November.
Bezos has also proven that he’s moved from the pledge phase to granting funds. A first round of 2020 grants from the Earth Fund totaled $791 million and the second round, announced earlier this month, was $203.7 million.
— Rachel Koning Beals and Leslie Albrecht contributed to this story