On May 26, 2020, Amazon announced a €3.75 million commitment to The Nature Conservancy in an effort to reduce climate change risks and restore species biodiversity in three German cities.
The initial project is in Berlin’s Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf district. Learnings will be applied in two other German locations, and then shared across other European cities. With this, Amazon says it is recognizing the urgency of the climate crisis and its impacts on urban communities.
“Cities like Berlin are on the front line in the fight against climate change,” said Oliver Schruoffenegger, City Councilor, Berlin Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf. “I welcome the commitment of The Nature Conservancy and Amazon to work together with the city of Berlin in our efforts to become greener. I look forward to working with both partners and local communities to define the best programs for our district.”
The announcement follows The Climate Pledge, the company’s commitment to be net zero carbon by 2040. Of course, climate restoration will only come from carbon-negative activities, but this is a token step in the right direction: at least they won’t be making the situation worse twenty years from now.
Amazon’s commitment will fund The Nature Conservancy’s Urban Greening program, which uses nature-based solutions to help cities become more climate-change resilient. The program will collaborate with city officials and local community organizations to create and implement plans for:
- reducing flood risk by improving rainwater retention through tree planting, revitalizing urban wetlands, and adapting existing green spaces;
- reducing extreme heat and pollution by leveraging unused public spaces to plant trees and improving urban water bodies; and
- increasing urban biodiversity by introducing pollinator-friendly species, climate resilient plants, and urban grasslands.
The program starts in the Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf district of Berlin and uses a science-based, municipality-wide, and stakeholder-based approach to urban greening to ensure that projects are complementing existing local efforts. Two additional German cities will be chosen, in which the initial learnings from Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf will be applied. The goal is to share a guide to urban greening with municipalities across Europe by the end of the five-year project.
“We believe that cities play an important role to lead on climate action at the local level in the coming decades, in support of Germany’s strong national commitment of climate neutrality by 2050,” said Dr. Kerstin Pfliegner, Germany Director of The Nature Conservancy.
In recent years, Berlin has experienced extreme weather, and people have been affected by intense heat waves and floods. For example, storm “Axel” in May 2019 released 70 liters of rainfall per square meter, leading to severe flooding.
“The people of Berlin are experiencing climate change first-hand – with urban floods and extreme heat events in the past years,” said Dr. Ulrich Heink, Director of the Department of Nature Conservation, Berlin-Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf district. “The nature-based climate solutions in this urban greening program will help to reduce these impacts while at the same time increase biodiversity and citizen well-being.”
Dr. Pfliegner added, “Our research shows that nature can offer cost-effective options for resilience in this changing environment.”
The Urban Greening program is the first project outside the U.S. for Amazon’s $100 millionRight Now Climate Fund, which is part of Amazon’s commitment to The Climate Pledge. Last year, Amazon co-founded The Climate Pledge with Global Optimism and became its first signatory.
Ralf Kleber, Vice President and Country Manager for Amazon Germany added “In addition to all our efforts in the fight against COVID-19, we must also maintain our efforts to protect the planet. The Nature Conservancy and its municipal partners will apply a science-based approach to developing a model that can be applied more broadly across German and European cities. As the program progresses, we will measure the impacts to ensure that the actions result in tangible benefits to urban residents, such as more greened spaces, greater counts of wild bees and other pollinators, more cubic liters of storm water safely managed, and lower average surface temperatures.”
The Climate Pledge is a collaborative initiative for companies that commit to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement 10 years early, to be net zero carbon by 2040 through decarbonization of operations and the use of nature-based solutions. In April, Amazon announced two other projects out of the Right Now Climate Fund, committing $10 million to accelerate the restoration and conservation of millions of acres of forest in the Northeastern U.S.
Photo of Berlin via Adobe Stock.