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Carbon emissions increased by 18 per cent in 2021, releasing the equivalent of more than 71 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide. That’s about the same yearly emissions as 19 coal-fired power plants.
The news showcases how one of the world’s largest companies is contributing to the climate crisis at a time when many governments and businesses — including Amazon — have pledged to reduce their impact on the planet.
Last year’s emissions were about 11 million metric tonnes higher than emissions in 2020, and about 20 million higher than emissions in 2019, per the company. That equals a nearly 40 per cent rise in emissions between 2019 and 2021.
Despite that rise, the company’s reported “carbon intensity” — a measure of emissions per dollar of sales — has gone down. In 2021, the company’s carbon intensity dropped 1.9 per cent from 2020.
This new report may not be a full accounting of Amazon’s emissions, however. Earlier this year, Reveal published an investigation into the company’s carbon reporting, claiming that the company only reported a fraction of the emissions from the products sold on its website.
An Amazon spokesperson told The Independent via email that the company uses the GHG Protocol Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard for their Scope 3 emissions reporting, meaning emissions from assets the company does not directly own or control.
They added that many products sold on Amazon’s platform are from third-party sellers who do their own emissions accounting.
In 2019, the company pledged to reach net-zero emissions by 2040, meaning they would reduce emissions from company operations and offset any remaining emissions.
In this year’s report, the company reported transitioning to more renewable energy and electric vehicles, in addition to other sustainability initiatives. The Amazon spokesperson noted that the company continues to “make investments to get us to net-zero carbon by 2040.”
Earlier this year, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, considered a leading authority on climate science, warned that the world’s emissions must start declining by 2025 if we want to limit warming to around 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures, one of the goals of the landmark Paris Agreement.
The world has already warmed around 1.2C and is on track to reach 2.7C of warming by the end of the century, according to the Climate Action Tracker, an independent analysis of global climate policy.
This article has been updated with Amazon’s percentage emissions increase from 2019-2021.