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Bezos Earth Fund Puts Priority On Climate Justice

Thomas Reaubourg

Jeff Bezos might be grabbing headlines with his Blue Origin space company and its plans to explore the solar system. Still, the Amazon founder’s most important work might be taking place much closer to home through a fund devoted to a more sustainable Earth.

The Bezos Earth Fund, launched in February 2020 with a $10 billion commitment from Bezos, looks to combat the effects of climate change by issuing grants to scientists, activists, and other organizations that work to preserve and protect the natural world. Bezos’ stated mission is to “save the planet” through the collective work of businesses, nation-states, organizations, and private citizens.

Photo Courtesy NOAA

“Climate change is the biggest threat to our planet,” Bezos said when the fund was launched. “I want to work alongside others both to amplify known ways and to explore new ways of fighting the devastating impact of climate change on this planet we all share.”

Since its launch, the Bezos Earth Fund has awarded hundreds of millions of dollars in grants. It is headed by Andrew Steer, who previously served as a special at the World Bank and then CEO of the World Resources Institute, a climate-focused think tank.

The fund plans to donate about $1 billion a year to various environmental groups and causes. Funds are expected to be fully allocated by 2030 – the year in which the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals must be achieved.

The latest round of funding, announced on Sept. 8, pledges $203.7 million in grants to support nonprofits working to advance climate justice, advocate for climate-smart economic recovery, and spur innovation in decarbonization.

The round includes $73.7 million in immediate donations across 12 organizations. It also includes a pledge of an additional $130 million to organizations supporting the Justice40 Initiative, which aims to deliver 40% of the overall benefits of relevant federal investments to disadvantaged communities and track that goal through the establishment of an Environmental Justice Scorecard.

“This funding is just the next step in the Bezos Earth Fund’s commitment to creating catalytic change during this decisive decade,” Steer said in a press release. “With each grant, we are helping organizations unblock progress and create pathways to a more sustainable future.”

The Bezos Earth Fund has already disbursed $20 million of the new grants across four climate justice groups that are working to provide greater community access to the Justice40 decision-making process. Recipients include the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice ($4 million), the Partnership for Southern Equity ($6 million), the Robert D. Bullard Center for Environmental and Climate Justice at Texas Southern University ($4 million), and WE ACT for Environmental Justice ($6 million).

The fund has also granted $53.7 million to organizations involved in climate change messaging as well as organizations that help businesses move toward cleaner sources of energy.

The focus on climate justice is a departure from the Bezos Earth Fund’s first round of funding, which earmarked huge blocks of money to well-known organizations such as the Nature Conservancy. “We appreciate that the Bezos Earth Fund has made a strong commitment to advancing climate justice with the understanding that those advances cannot be achieved without supporting grassroots front-line organizations,” Peggy Shepard, co-founder and executive director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice, said in a statement.

Steer emphasized the Bezos Earth Fund’s support for climate justice in an April interview with Vox.

“We need to take issues of environmental justice into account,” he said. “The poor and people of color have suffered a great deal from climate change, both in this country and even more internationally. We need to make that an important theme of this as well.”

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