By Holly Giles | Deputy Editor
In 2007 Google became carbon-neutral, meaning the amount of carbon emissions released each year by the company are counteracted through renewable projects to trap carbon before its release. However, now the company has gone one step further with the declaration that it has wiped out its entire carbon footprint, meaning it has compensated for all the carbon the company has ever created since it was founded in 1998.
The company explained that they have been able to make this change by investing in “high quality carbon offsets”. Simplified, this means that Google has invested in renewable energy projects to remove carbon from entering the atmosphere at sites including farms and landfills. Supporting these projects has meant Google is responsible for removing this carbon from the atmosphere so can counteract the carbon they have previously added as a company.
The declaration that they have removed all the carbon created since the company’s origin means that the amount of carbon they have released over time is equivalent to the amount they have now captured through renewable projects.
Whilst the company has not shared the total amount spent on the project, it is safe to assume this is an unachievable method for smaller businesses.
Despite this massive achievement, Google is not satisfied; the new goal is to run all data centres and offices on carbon-free energy by 2030. This is different to offsetting the carbon emissions produced as means the company would not be creating any carbon emissions and would be running entirely on renewable resources.
Whilst many technology companies have expressed this as a goal for the future, Google is the first company of its size to give a specific target of 2030, providing a fixed deadline for the project.
Chief Executive, Sundar Pichai, explained that this goal is the “biggest sustainability moonshot yet” and will encompass all of the offices, campuses and data centres for Gmail, Google Search, YouTube and Google Maps. Furthermore, the company plans to offset the emissions created by employees’ commutes to the office and more.
“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 optimise our electricity demand and forecasting.”
There are still many barriers to overcome between now and 2030 for Google’s dream to be realised. These include technological advances in batteries, artificial intelligence and increasing energy efficiency; whilst simultaneously creating over 12,000 jobs devoted to helping Google achieve its goal.
When reflecting on the project, Greenpeace said Google was setting a
“new high-bar for the sector”.
Whilst the realities of the project may be challenging, it is an important milestone in technology, that the most popular search engine in the world has a net carbon emission for its lifetime of zero
Science and Technology Holly Giles