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Jeff Bezos’ Earth Fund has a new leader

We’re learning more about the future of Bezos’ climate-focused fund

Climate Week NYC Opening Ceremony
Andrew Steer speaks at the opening ceremony for New York City’s Climate Week in 2010.

Jeff Bezos’ Earth Fund has a new leader and a newly announced deadline. Andrew Steer will take the helm as president and CEO of the Earth Fund in mid-April after stepping down from his role leading one of the environmental organizations Bezos currently funds. According to Steer, Bezos intends to spend the entire $10 billion fund by 2030 — a date that hadn’t previously been publicly disclosed.

Choosing Steer to lead the Earth Fund is another signal that Bezos intends to spend his cash on mainstream strategies to address the climate crisis. Bezos’ first group of grantees were mostly legacy environmental organizations that work toward the reduction of planet-heating carbon dioxide emissions. In contrast, other high-profile efforts have funneled money into hastening the development of future technologies designed to capture emissions after they’ve already been released.

Steer was the president of the World Resources Institute (WRI) for eight years, an organization that received one of the biggest grants from Bezos last November — $100 million. The nonprofit research institute said it would spend the money on two initiatives over five years. One project is a satellite monitoring system to track carbon dioxide emissions. WRI will also put the money toward electrifying more than 450,000 school buses in the US by 2030.

Steer vaguely outlined some of the Earth Fund’s priorities on Twitter. “The Earth Fund will invest in scientists, NGOs, activists, and the private sector to help drive new technologies, investments, policy change and behavior,” he wrote. “We will emphasize social justice, as climate change disproportionately hurts poor and marginalized communities.”

The Earth Fund has faced criticism from some grassroots groups that say Bezos’ initial choice of grantees lacked diversity and didn’t do enough to curb emissions from Bezos’ company Amazon. Many mainstream environmental groups, including those Bezos chose to fund, are facing a reckoning over a lack of people of color among their ranks. The Climate Justice Alliance, whose members include environmental organizations led by people of color from communities that have faced a long legacy of pollution, has called on Bezos and his grantees to redirect money from the fund to their communities.

Bezos announced in February that he plans to step down from his role as CEO of Amazon this year. The move will give him more time for his “passions,” including the Earth Fund, he wrote at the time.

Update March 9th, 2:47pm ET: This post has been updated with information from WRI on when Steer will step into his new role at the Earth Fund.