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Amazon founder pledges $1 billion to preserve, protect biodiversity from climate impacts

21 September 2021 Amena Saiyid

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos kicked off New York Climate Week with a $1 billion pledge to protect and preserve the earth's plant and animal species that are under threat from a rapidly changing climate that is fueling droughts, frigid temperatures, wildfires, and hurricanes.

"The loss of nature and the changing climate aren't really two separate problems. They are two sides of the same coin," Bezos said 20 September as he announced the grants at an event held by The Climate Pledge (TCP). "We simply cannot address climate change without reversing the loss of nature and vice versa."

Saying the "top-down approach" of distributing grants has failed in the past, Bezos said the grants would be given to local indigenous communities for projects in the Congo Basin, the tropical Andes, and the tropical Pacific Ocean, where there is significant need and opportunity.

The goal is to use the $1 billion—which would come from the $10 billion Bezos Earth Fund set up a year ago to fund nature and climate solutions—towards implementing the 2019 goal articulated by scientists to protect 30% of air and land by 2030 because species are being lost at 1,000 times their natural extinction rate.

Tropical forests, for example, are home to more than half of all species on land and capture more carbon pollution than any other terrestrial ecosystem. They also sequester much more carbon than planted monocultures, according to his announcement.

"We know from science that conserving of 30% of well-chosen land and maritime areas can protect 80% of plant and animal species and secure 60% of carbon stocks," Bezos said.

Joining Bezos for the announcement was UN Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed and US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry.

"Best foot forward"

Mohammed quipped that she felt like an endangered species herself, "surrounded by all these men." She added that women in affected communities would solve "what scientists say is a man-made crisis."

On a more serious note, she lauded Bezos for recognizing the scale of the biodiversity problem, and the urgency with which it needs to be tackled. "What Jeff showed us today is he putting his best foot forward, what's yours?" Mohammed asked the gathered audience.

Kerry agreed, saying Bezos is "stepping up where people with the wherewithal do not step up."

Earlier in September, the Bezos Earth Fund announced $237.1 million in grants for nonprofits, including those engaged in advancing climate justice, climate-smart economic recovery, and spurring innovation for decarbonization pathways.

These include $7 million for Mission Possible Partnership, an alliance of climate leaders focused on "supercharging efforts" to decarbonize many of the world's most carbon-intensive industries, including steel, aluminum, cement, chemicals, aviation, shipping, and trucking.

Financial institutions back nature conservation

Bezos likened the impacts of global warming to a slow asteroid that is hurtling towards the Earth and said "there is blessedly something we can do about it now."

Under Bezos, Amazon co-founded TCP with the international nonprofit Global Optimism in 2019. It is a platform for companies, organizations, and individuals to collaborate on a series of actions to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2040, 10 years ahead of the Paris Agreement goal. TCP also includes a $2-billion venture fund that provides seed money to companies and technologies that will facilitate the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Prior to Bezos' announcement, TCP announced it had 201 signatories under its belt.

The announcement comes as countries gear up for the Fifteenth UN Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity, which will be held in October in Kunming, China, and the COP26 climate meeting in November in Glasgow, Scotland.

Ahead of the COP15 meeting, 78 financial institutions representing more than $10.6 trillion in assets called on world governments to halt and reverse biodiversity loss and to realign capital flows towards a nature-based economy.

"Biodiversity loss will have significant and systematic consequences for the global economy, and exposes us to market, credit, liquidity and operational risks," the companies said in a joint statement that was coordinated by Finance For Biodiversity and Ceres, a sustainable network of investors.

Posted 21 September 2021 by Amena Saiyid, Senior Climate & Energy Research Analyst, IHS Markit

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