Google aims for NetZero emissions by 2030

Tech giant Google has shifted its strategy on achieving carbon neutrality, abandoning its previous practice of mass-purchasing cheap carbon offsets. The company now aims to reach net-zero emissions by 2030 through absolute emission reductions and investment in carbon removal projects.

For over a decade, Google claimed carbon neutrality by counterbalancing its emissions with carbon offsets – credits representing avoided emissions through projects like forest protection. However, the company’s latest environmental report reveals a move away from this approach, citing a more robust carbon-removal ecosystem and the need for stricter emission reduction measures.

This change coincides with Google’s growing reliance on resource-intensive artificial intelligence, leading to a significant rise in the company’s overall emissions. Google’s total planet-warming emissions in 2023 were 48% higher than 2019, with energy consumption doubling during that period.

The validity of carbon offsetting itself has come under scrutiny. Critics argue that many offset projects, such as forest protection schemes, exaggerate their impact, and that renewable energy projects funded by offsets would likely have been built anyway. Google’s 2022 purchase of nearly 3 million tons of such offsets is a case in point.

Moving forward, Google plans to focus on directly reducing emissions and investing in verified carbon removal techniques. These techniques, though more expensive, demonstrably remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The company has already committed $200 million to a carbon-removal market development fund and contracted for carbon removal credits from several firms.

Google’s shift aligns with a broader trend. Companies like EasyJet and Interface Inc. have also abandoned offset-based carbon neutrality claims and received validation for their new, stricter emission reduction targets from the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi).

While some experts believe complete offsetting is flawed, they acknowledge the potential role of carbon removal in achieving ambitious climate goals. However, they emphasize that emission reduction should remain the primary focus. Google’s renewed commitment to absolute emission reductions signifies a positive step in this direction.

Tags: Emissions, Google, NetZero
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