Carbon Neutrality isn’t a thing for Google anymore

Tech giant Google has changed its approach to achieving carbon neutrality, moving away from the mass purchase of inexpensive carbon offsets. Google now aims to achieve net-zero emissions by 2030 through absolute emission reductions and investments in carbon removal projects.

For over a decade, Google maintained carbon neutrality by balancing its emissions with carbon offsets—credits for projects like forest protection that supposedly avoid emissions. However, Google’s latest environmental report indicates a shift from this method, citing a more robust carbon-removal ecosystem and the need for stricter emission reduction efforts.

This change comes as Google’s dependence on resource-intensive artificial intelligence has led to a substantial increase in the company’s overall emissions. In 2023, Google’s total planet-warming emissions were 48% higher than in 2019, with energy consumption doubling during that time.

The validity of carbon offsetting itself has been questioned. Critics argue that many offset projects, such as forest protection schemes, overstate their impact and that renewable energy projects funded by offsets would likely have been developed regardless. Google’s 2022 purchase of nearly 3 million tonnes of such offsets exemplifies this concern.

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

Google’s shift is part of a broader trend. Companies like EasyJet and Interface Inc. have also moved away from offset-based carbon neutrality claims and have received validation for their stricter emission reduction targets from the Science-Based Targets Initiative (SBTi).


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