Google just made one of Big Tech’s most ambitious environmental commitments: it will work to run its operations exclusively on renewable energy by 2030. It also announced that starting today, it has purchased enough carbon offsets to essentially cancel out all the carbon it warms the planet carbon dioxide emissions that the company has released since its founding in 1998.
Google has been carbon-neutral every year since 2007, which means it offsets the emissions it generates from burning fossil fuels by investing in renewable energy projects or other initiatives that extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it. But relying on offsets doesn̵
Google’s new commitment comes as California, home of Google’s headquarters, continues to burn and choke with smoke from the flames made more devastating by climate change. “We have until 2030 to map out a sustainable cause for our planet or address the worst consequences of climate change,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in a video released today. “We are already feeling those impacts today from historic fires in the United States to devastating floods in many parts of the world.”
Once Google’s data centers are fully powered by renewable energy, “this will mean that every email you send via Gmail, every question you ask Google Search, every YouTube video you watch, and every route you take using Google Maps, will be provided. it gives clean energy every hour of every day, ”Pichai wrote in a blog post today. Google’s new commitment applies to the company’s use of electricity; the company will continue to offset emissions for things like employee travel, Reuters relationships.
Last September, Google announced what it called “the largest corporate purchase of renewable energy in history,” which increased the company’s wind and solar deals by 40 percent. The company said it became the largest corporate buyer of renewable energy in the world in 2016.
Before Google can fully rely on renewable energy, it will have to overcome some technological hurdles. It will need more and better batteries to store and provide energy when the sun isn’t shining and the wind stops. He also says he’s trying to figure out how to use AI to predict the company’s electricity demand and become more energy efficient. In the United States, the country’s aging energy grid needs to be upgraded to better accommodate renewable energy as well. Companies like Google often just rely on the available energy mix, which typically includes fossil fuels, wherever they operate. So Google may need to think about working in places with healthy renewable energy markets and supportive energy policies.
As it’s trying to figure out how to address these challenges, Google says its commitment to ending its fossil fuel addiction could pave the way for other companies to do the same. He believes his environmental efforts will create 12,000 jobs by 2025.
Google’s new commitment meets one of the demands made last year by more than 2,000 of its workers, who demanded zero carbon emissions by 2030 and joined a global climate strike with other tech workers in September. Workers at Amazon and Microsoft have made similar demands calling on their employers to stop releasing greenhouse gases by 2030, but Google is so far the only tech giant to do so. None of the companies met the additional requests from employees to terminate contracts with fossil fuel companies and stop funding climate science denying politicians and lobbyists.
Microsoft announced in January that it would work to remove all the carbon pollution it has ever released from the atmosphere by 2050, which is a more difficult feat than Google’s milestone today offsetting all of its historic carbon emissions. But Google can now boast that its net carbon footprint over its lifespan is zero.