Technology

Amazon Says Its Carbon Emissions Fell in 2023 Amid Post-Pandemic Pullback

(Amazon.com Inc.)

(Bloomberg) -- Amazon.com Inc. says its carbon emissions fell for a second straight year in 2023 as the company cut spending on new warehouses and cloud-computing data centers. 

The e-commerce giant’s greenhouse gas emissions last year dropped 3%, to 68.82 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. The reduction was driven by a 13% decline in emissions related to capital goods – including construction and equipment purchases. The Seattle-based company’s capital expenditures fell by about $10 billion in 2023 as it worked through a pandemic-era glut of warehouse capacity and cut spending on the data centers that power Amazon Web Services. 

The data, published in Amazon’s annual sustainability report on Wednesday, contrast with disclosures from rivals Microsoft Corp. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google, which are struggling to reduce their emissions amid a surge in demand for the data centers required for artificial intelligence. Amazon itself has pledged to spend more than $150 billion on data centers in the next 15 years, so it could encounter similar setbacks down the road.

Amazon’s sprawling in-house logistics business spews out roughly the same amount of planet-warming emissions as Google’s entire operation and masks the impact of data center construction. Amazon doesn’t break out AWS emissions. 

The company currently plans to zero out its carbon emissions by 2040. Its highest-profile effort — the purchase of 100,000 electric delivery vans built by Rivian Automotive Inc. — is starting to pay off. Amazon is now looking to use more sustainable aviation fuel along with cleaner concrete and steel in its buildings.  

Amazon has also embedded climate metrics in its planning processes in an effort to show employees the impact of new initiatives on the company’s carbon budget, said Kara Hurst, who leads the sustainability teams. 

“It isn’t a linear path,” Hurst said of progress toward the net-zero goal. “We are going to see changes. There are things like AI that come along that we’re going to have to grapple with, but I think we have so many tools that we didn’t have even a couple of years ago. It’s a much different playing field.”  

Amazon also said Wednesday that it bought enough renewable power in 2023 to match the amount of electricity consumed by its operations, reaching ahead of schedule a goal Jeff Bezos laid out five years ago when he announced Amazon intended to eliminate its greenhouse gas emissions.  

Most corporate claims for 100% renewable power are based on the use of renewable energy credits, essentially on-paper rights to electrons produced by a solar or wind farm. A Bloomberg investigation has shown that such credits don’t always reduce emissions. 

Amazon, currently the world’s largest corporate backer of renewable energy, says it relies on such credits in part to bridge the gap between the time it agrees to underwrite the projects and those projects come online. 

Amazon’s carbon intensity, a measure of how much it emits for every dollar in sales, is down by about a third since Bezos announced the company’s carbon targets in 2019. Absolute emissions are up 34% in that period. 

Listen on Zero: Microsoft Wanted to be Carbon Negative. Then It Went Big on AI

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.

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