Amazon's carbon emissions rose 19% in 2020 even as Covid-19 pushed global levels down

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Amazon vans line up at a distribution center to pick up packages for delivery on Amazon Prime Day in Orlando, Florida.
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Amazon‘s carbon emissions climbed 19% last year, even as the Covid-19 pandemic spurred a sharp drop in global emission levels.

In its annual sustainability report issued Wednesday, Amazon said its activities emitted the equivalent of 60.64 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2020. That's up from 2019, when it reported 51.17 million metric tons, an increase of 15% year over year.

Covid-19 has forced many people to stay indoors to avoid exposure to the virus. Last year, that shift in activity brought with it a drop in global greenhouse gas emissions. Global carbon emissions fell roughly 7% year-over-year in 2020, marking the largest decline on record, researchers found last December.

Amazon said its emissions grew in 2020 as a result of the pandemic-fueled growth of its business. The company was one of the biggest beneficiaries of the pandemic, as shoppers relied on the online retailer for everything from face masks and hand sanitizer to groceries and office supplies. Amazon hauled in a record $386 billion in revenue last year.

While absolute emissions grew, Amazon lowered its carbon intensity, which measures emissions per dollar of sales, by 16% in 2020, which is in line with internal targets, the company said.

“This year-over-year carbon intensity comparison reflects our early progress to decarbonize our operations as we also continue to grow as a company,” Amazon said in the report. “Nearly half of our carbon intensity improvement is a result of our investments in renewable energy and operational efficiency enhancements.”

Amazon unveiled its “Climate Pledge” in 2019. As part of the plan, Amazon has committed to be carbon neutral by 2040. Last June, Amazon said it expects to run entirely on clean energy by 2025, which is five years ahead of the goal it initially stated in the Climate Pledge.

Part of Amazon's climate goals include integrating electric vehicles into its delivery network. It ordered 100,000 electric delivery vehicles from Rivian that it says will be on the road by 2030.

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