The role of billionaires in directing climate policy

By | December 19, 2022

The Washington Post reports:

They are not elected to any office. But in the fight against global warming, the world’s billionaires have more influence than many heads of state.

As government struggles to move quickly to contain greenhouse gases, ultrawealthy investors and philanthropists are increasingly grabbing the reins, using their fortunes to guide the transition to cleaner energy toward their favored projects and market strategies.

They are men with household names like Jeff Bezos (net worth: $113 billion, according to Forbes), Mike Bloomberg ($77 billion) and Bill Gates ($106 billion), along with other billionaires who have lower profiles but equally large climate ambition. Their role as shadow policymakers has grown amid the evolution of the Biden administration climate agenda and the recent U.N. Climate Change Conference in Egypt, known as COP27, where their projects were on prominent display.

“This kind of hobbyist approach has become a big factor in the way we are addressing climate change,” said David Victor, co-director of the Deep Decarbonization Initiative at the University of California at San Diego. “Is this the ideal way to do it? No. The ideal way would be large publicly oriented programs. But that is not happening anywhere in the world.” [Continue reading…]

In August, The Verge reported:

Amazon’s greenhouse gas emissions ballooned big time last year despite the company’s efforts to sell itself as a leader in climate action. Its carbon dioxide emissions grew an eye-popping 18 percent in 2021 compared to 2020, according to its latest sustainability report.

Amazon generated 71.54 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent last year, about as much pollution as 180 gas-fired power plants might pump out annually. This is the second year in a row that Amazon’s climate pollution has grown by double digits since it made a splashy climate pledge and started reporting its emissions publicly in 2019. Comparing that year to 2021, the company’s CO2 pollution has actually grown a whopping 40 percent.

Back in 2019, then-CEO Jeff Bezos announced that the company planned to reach net-zero carbon dioxide emissions for its operations by 2040. Unfortunately, that kind of pledge allows companies to get away with some misleading carbon accounting. They can aim to reach “net-zero” emissions or claim to be “carbon-neutral” by purchasing carbon offsets that are supposed to cancel out the impact of their emissions through supposedly eco-friendly projects. That usually involves planting trees, protecting forests, or promoting clean energy. Those offsets, however, typically don’t result in real-world reductions in the planet-heating CO2 building up in our atmosphere. [Continue reading…]

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