At Glasgow, Jeff Bezos pledges $2B as the financing to fight climate change comes into focus

·Senior Editor
·4 min read

GLASGOW, Scotland — On Tuesday, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos pledged to donate $2 billion of his personal fortune to “restoring nature and transforming food systems” affected by climate change.

“Each year, forests and landscapes absorb 11 billion tons of CO2 from the atmosphere. As we destroy nature, we reverse this process,” the billionaire said in remarks at the U.N. Climate Change Conference. “In too many parts of the world, nature is already flipping from a carbon sink to a carbon source. This is a profound danger to us all.”

That money will be part of Bezos’s $10 billion commitment to fighting climate change this decade, and was, in part, inspired by his trip in July beyond the Earth’s atmosphere in a rocket developed by Blue Origin, his aerospace business venture. 

“Nature is beautiful, but it is also fragile,” he said. “I was reminded of this in July when I went into space with Blue Origin. I was told seeing the Earth from space changes the lens through which you view the world, but I was not prepared for just how much that would be true.”

As John Kerry, President Biden’s special envoy for climate, made clear earlier in the day, the coming fight against climate change will be very expensive and will require a massive infusion of cash from the likes of Bezos and companies in the private sector. 

“A hundred billion dollars doesn’t do it, folks,” Kerry told a small gaggle of reporters at the conference that included Yahoo News. “It’s trillions of dollars that are needed. And the only way that we will get this done is if trillions of dollars are forthcoming. And they are. [On Wednesday] there will be an announcement. I’m not going to jump the announcement, but there will be tens of trillions of dollars announced that are available to be invested in this transition.”

Kerry noted that banking industry firms in the U.S. have already agreed to chip in. 

“Let me give you an example,” he said. “My office worked with the six largest banks in America — Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, State Street, Bank of America and JPMorgan — they publicly stood up a number of months ago, it wasn’t much noticed, and they announced that they will, over the next 10 years ... they will invest $4.16 trillion.”

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos speaks during the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, Britain, November 2, 2021. Paul Ellis/Pool via REUTERS
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos speaks at the U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, on Tuesday. (Paul Ellis/Pool via Reuters)

That money will be crucial in helping developing nations transform their economies away from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy, and is a major issue facing the world on how to cut greenhouse gas emissions that are causing climate change. To that end, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Tuesday that the U.S. was backing a bond financing plan to offer $500 million per year to help developing nations.

"The gap between what governments have and what the world needs is large, and the private sector needs to play a bigger role,” Yellen told delegates in Glasgow. 

Samantha Power, the administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, will arrive in Glasgow this week and hold “bilateral meetings to advance U.S. global leadership in supporting countries to implement more ambitious emissions reduction commitments,” her office said in a press release. 

While more than 100 countries joined a pledge Tuesday to halt deforestation by 2030, raising enough money to protect the people who live in much of the developing world, funding has remained a stumbling block. USAID said that Power would look to secure commitments, “partnering with vulnerable countries to prepare for and adapt to climate impacts and disasters, and advancing climate equity and empowering women, indigenous peoples, and local communities.”

On Tuesday, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he would serve as co-chairman of the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, a group that says it is “committed to accelerating and mainstreaming the decarbonization of the world economy” and will seek to fund climate change initiatives from 450 financial institutions in 45 countries. 

“Winning the battle against climate change will require vast amounts of new investment, and the majority will have to come from the private sector,” Bloomberg said. 

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres on Tuesday told representatives from vulnerable nations that their countries will need to have easier access to finance, as well as pathways for debt relief as climate change continues to worsen.

“You represent those who are first to suffer and those who are last to receive help,” Guterres said at the conference. “The solidarity you need is lacking. The solidarity needs to emerge here, in Glasgow.”

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