Google CEO says ‘there will be sacrifices’ in going carbon-free

Silicon Valley-based tech giant says it has been carbon neutral since 2007

Louise Boyle
Senior Climate Correspondent, New York
Monday 18 October 2021 20:56
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Google CEO Sundar Pichai says that there will be “sacrifices” for the company to meet its goal of going carbon-free by the end of the decade.

The Silicon Valley-based tech giant reports that it has been carbon neutral since 2007, and is the first company to achieve 100 per cent renewable energy. Last year, Google promised it would be the first major firm to operate free of carbon emissions by 2030.

But reaching that goal won’t be easy, Mr Pichai told Bloomberg Green. In an interview published this week he noted that “there will be sacrifices we will have to make”.

“There may be regions of the world we can’t quite invest in this way, because we can’t get to a carbon-free state. It may lead to some services we can’t build. That will be a reality if we don’t solve it,” he said.

Mr Pichai also spoke of the increasingly extreme impacts of climate-driven wildfires on the US West Coast, where smoke blotted about the sun in the Bay Area, leaving skies a Blade Runner-esque orange last year. He noted that his children had been asking questions about climate change.

“So I feel that moral imperative,” he said. “Pretty much every parent feels the same way.”

Mr Pichai, who grew up in Chennai, India, said that the region’s annual droughts had long made him aware of “this intersection of how climate affects life”.

The CEO, who is also head of Google parent company Alphabet Inc, said that he remained optimistic about the climate crisis but was “very anxious we’re losing time”.

“The good news is that people are becoming more aware of it than ever before. I sense that urgency. The bad news is that some of it is coming as people see real-world examples of these kind of interconnected climate events. I wish we were at this moment a decade earlier,” he added.

Among the tech innovations that Google is deploying in its carbon-free mission is a vast web of solar panels atop its new Silicon Valley campus, scheduled to open in 2022.

The company also plans to bring five Gigawatts of clean energy sources online in the next decade – more than the current solar capacity of the state of Arizona, it notes.

Earlier this month Google announced that it would block climate crisis deniers from spreading misinformation or making money by blocking digital ads promoting false climate claims from appearing alongside content on its platforms.

The new policy was rolled out for video creators, advertisers and publishers on YouTube, which Google purchased for $1.65bn in 2006.

The ban will apply to content that dubs the climate crisis a hoax or denies that greenhouse gas emissions, largely caused by humans burning fossil fuels, have contributed to rising global temperatures.

The company also announced that Google Cloud would introduce tools to help customers decarbonise their digital applications and infrastructure.

A new “Carbon Footprint” product, will help users get an accurate snapshot of the electricity-related emissions associated with their Google Cloud Platform usage. Meanwhile Google Earth Engine will enable organisations to combine the power of cloud computing, satellite imagery and AI to decarbonise their operations.

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