Tech giant Google has announced that it has reduced its entire carbon footprint to zero by investing in “high-quality carbon offsets”.
Google, which became carbon-neutral in 2007, claims that it has now compensated for all of the carbon it has ever produced, reducing its carbon footprint to zero. Google chief executive officer (CEO) Sundar Pichai added that the firm plans to operate all of its data centers and offices on carbon-free energy by 2030.
According to Pichai, Google’s pledge to only use carbon-free energy by 2030 will be its “biggest sustainability moonshot yet”. He explained: “We’ll do things like pairing wind and solar power sources together and increasing our use of battery storage.”
“And we’re working on ways to apply AI [artificial intelligence] to optimize our electricity demand and forecasting,” he added. The Google chief claims that his would help create 2,000 jobs over the next five years.
Greenpeace welcomed the tech firm’s announcement, saying Google was setting “a new high-bar for the sector” with its ambition.
Elizabeth Jardim, senior corporate campaigner at Greenpeace USA, said: “Today’s announcement, combined with Google’s promise in May to no longer create artificial intelligence solutions for upstream oil and gas exploration, shows that Google takes its role in combating climate change seriously.”
Global companies move toward renewable energy
Last year, some of the largest firms in the world, including Amazon and Google, pledged to invest in renewable energy amidst calls to address climate change.
Amazon has promised to be carbon neutral by 2040 while Google committed to making record purchases of renewable energy.
According to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, the company has several climate initiatives, which include transforming the company to become carbon neutral and meeting the goals of the Paris climate agreement by 2040.
In order to accomplish these, Amazon claimed that it has purchased 100,000 electric delivery vehicles to reduce its fuel consumption, the first of which will enter service in 2021.
If successful, the e-commerce company would have met the Paris agreement targets 10 years earlier. However, some employees still don’t feel that the company has sufficiently done its part, with over 1,500 workers staging a walkout protest against Amazon’s environmental record.
Swedish retailer Ikea, owned by Ingka Group, said its recent purchases in wind and solar systems will enable the company to reach its target to produce as much renewable energy as it consumes by 2020. Ingka chief executive Jesper Brodin claimed that the company spent billions on wind farms and solar panels and will continue to do so.
Doubts surrounding carbon offsetting
While environmentalists have lauded this current trend of world-leading businesses pledging their commitment toward zero carbon emission, the claim of Google to have “offset” all of its historical carbon “debt” may raise concerns.
Google’s offsetting initiatives have been mainly focused on capturing natural gas where it’s escaping from pig farms and landfill sites, which can be argued as mandatory for governments to conduct.
The tech firm also claims that it is monitoring the debate about so-called Nature Based Solutions, which involve activities such as planting trees to capture carbon dioxide but the science behind this process remains questionable.