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Bezos’ fiancée, a VIP in his green fund, makes $60 million splash at Miami climate meet

Lauren Sanchez speaks to the audience during the Aspen Climate Conference at Miami Beach Convention Center in Miami Beach, Florida, on Tuesday, March 12, 2024.
D.A. Varela
Miami Herald
Lauren Sanchez speaks to the audience during the Aspen Climate Conference at Miami Beach Convention Center in Miami Beach, Florida, on Tuesday, March 12, 2024.

One of Miami’s newest and most potentially most influential celebrity residents made her first public comments in her new home Tuesday on the stage of a major climate conference in Miami Beach.

Lauren Sánchez — vice chair of the Bezos Earth Fund and fiancée of billionaire Amazon founder Jeff Bezos — announced a $60 million investment during Aspen Ideas: Climate, a three-day conference focused on finding solutions to climate change.

That money, she said, would help establish the Bezos Centers for Sustainable Protein, which will funnel investment into lab-grown and plant-based meats to make them “healthier, cheaper and tastier.” Sanchez, who settled late last year into the exclusive village of Indian Creek, where Bezos has purchased two expensive waterfront estates, praised the flavor improvements of the newest crop of alternative meats.

“Trust me, I’ve had them and you can hardly tell the difference. I really like ‘em,” she told the audience at Aspen Ideas, which draws many high-profile speakers and attendees, including U.S. Cabinet secretaries and A-list investors, philanthropists, experts and policymakers.

It wasn’t immediately clear where the centers might be located but the first choice might not be Florida, where lawmakers have launched a pre-emptive strike against “fake meat” before it has even hit the market. Just last week, the Florida Legislature passed a bill banning the sale of lab-grown meat in the state, part of an effort to protect the state’s politically powerful cattle industry. The bill awaits Gov. Ron DeSantis’ signature, but based on previous negative comments about lab-grown meat, he’s expected to sign it.

While plant-based meats — like Beyond or Impossible — are readily available in mainstream grocery stores, the lab-grown meat industry is still working on producing a product that is commercially viable. For all the publicity the lab-grown industry has generated, it has not yet produced anything for sale in any state, including Florida.

A spokesperson for the Bezos Earth Fund fund did not respond immediately to questions from The Herald about where the new centers could end up.

However, climate scientists agree that agriculture is one of the biggest contributors to global climate change, based on both the land used to raise livestock and also the intense methane emissions that livestock, particularly cows, emit in their burps. Methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide and warms the atmosphere even more than CO2.

Bezos, who graduated from Miami Palmetto High School and announced in November that he was returning to South Florida, regained his unofficial status as the world’s richest person last week. The 60-year-old tech titan is worth a cool $200 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. As vice chair of the Bezos Earth Fund, Sánchez, a former TV news host in Los Angeles, could have huge influence in directing seed money into promising climate change solutions.

While the couple has been spotted in numerous spots across South Florida, the Aspen Ideas conference marked her first publicized statements since moving to South Florida.

She used her brief talk to highlight several other key partnerships the Bezos Earth Fund is involved in, including the recent launch of a new satellite to better track methane leaks around the world. The $60 million push for healthier proteins is part of the fund’s $1 billion investment in improving agriculture, out of the $10 billion Bezos has pledged to spend with the Earth Fund this decade. “We need to invent our way out of climate change. And we’re going to do it,” Sánchez said.

Ashley Miznazi is a climate change reporter for the Miami Herald funded by the Lynn and Louis Wolfson II Family Foundation in partnership with Journalism Funding Partners.

This story was produced in partnership with the Florida Climate Reporting Network, a multi-newsroom initiative founded by the Miami Herald, the South Florida Sun Sentinel, The Palm Beach Post, the Orlando Sentinel, WLRN Public Media and the Tampa Bay Times.

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