Google could achieve net zero emissions by 2030, says chief

Under pressure from its employees, Google’s chief executive Sundar Pichai has said that the internet group can achieve zero emissions by 2030, one of the key demands of climate strikersm including its staff, who are taking to the streets on Friday, writes the FT’s Tim Bradshaw.

Mr Pichai told the FT in an interview in Helsinki on Friday that a 2030 target “doesn’t seem unreasonable”, putting it on a more ambitious track than rival Amazon, which set itself a 2040 deadline earlier this week.

The 2030 target is a top demand from climate activists who are pressing tech companies to reduce their environmental impact, ahead of the UN Climate Change summit in New York next week.

Organisers say that more than 1,600 Google employees will strike on Friday at offices around the world.

“The carbon footprint of the tech industry’s data centres alone is on par with aviation,” Google Workers for Action on Climate group said in a blogpost this week.

Staffers at Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter have all said they will walk out as part of Friday’s protests, which are expected to see millions take to the streets globally.

Google, which announced 18 new renewable energy deals on Thursday, already pays for enough energy to run its business operations, including its data centres, from wind and solar power.

However, the variability of clean energy supply and the locations of some of those facilities means that it still has to draw on the grid at certain times.

Google has previously said it wants to achieve “24×7” carbon-free energy consumption but had not set a date for doing so.

“It doesn’t seem unreasonable to me,” Mr Pichai said when asked about the protesters’ 2030 target. “We want to be ambitious in how we think about it. It definitely seems the kind of timeline by which we want to accomplish those things.”

His comments may fall short of the firm, contractual commitment that protesters are looking for, however.

It follows what Google said on Thursday was the “biggest corporate purchase of renewable energy in history”. Its package of wind and solar deals struck over the last year will secure a total of 1,600 megawatts of renewable energy for its facilities around the world and spur $2bn in new investment in wind and solar infrastructure around the world, Google said.

Earlier on Thursday, Amazon said it would be carbon neutral by 2040.

Campaigners under the banner of Amazon Employees For Climate Justice said on Twitter they were “thrilled” that the company had set any kind of target but said it was “not enough”.

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