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Wind and Solar Power Advance, but Carbon Refuses to Retreat

NYT > Economy

Two decades have passed since diplomats from around the world emerged from a conference hall in Kyoto, Japan, with what was billed as the first deal ever to limit emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases that are relentlessly warming the earth's atmosphere. Climate diplomacy has made a lot of progress since then. All but one of the world's nations -- the United States -- have enlisted in the cause, making concrete commitments to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels. Leaving aside President Trump's past declarations that climate change is a hoax, there are heartening signs that the strategy may work: Global carbon-dioxide emissions have stopped rising. Coal use in China may have peaked.

Google says it offset all of the emissions it has ever generated


As of today, Google has eliminated its entire "carbon legacy." By that, the company means it has purchased high-quality carbon offsets to match all of the emissions ever produced by its data centers and campuses. That includes the emissions generated before Google became carbon neutral in 2007. The company says it's the first in the world to eliminate its carbon legacy. Carbon offsets are credits for renewable energy that are meant to compensate for emissions made elsewhere.

Google aims to run on completely carbon-free energy by 2030


Four years after Google shifted entirely to renewable energy, the company has set out its next major sustainability goal. CEO Sundar Pichai said Google plans to run its data centers and offices entirely on carbon-free energy by 2030. Pichai called the effort a "moonshot," noting that the company will have to source carbon-free energy at all of its locations, which might not be easy for facilities in remote areas. Five data centers currently run at or close to 90 percent carbon-free energy, including the latest location in Denmark. Google built five solar farms to help run that data center, augmenting the abundant wind-based power on the Danish grid.

Apple says its products will be carbon-neutral by 2030


Since April, Apple's corporate operations have been 100 percent carbon neutral. Now, the company says it's ready to go even further. Today, Apple pledged to make its supply chain and all of its products carbon neutral by 2030. Apple made the announcement as part of its 2020 environmental progress report and shared a video of a man whispering to a baby and promising that the company will do better by the child's tenth birthday. To achieve carbon neutral status, Apple will reduce its emissions by 75 percent and invest in carbon removal solutions to eliminate the remaining 25 percent of its carbon footprint. This will require the use of low-carbon and recycled materials, product recycling and energy efficient design.

Rightsizing carbon dioxide removal


Proven approaches for limiting climate change include enhancing energy efficiency, capturing wind and solar energy, decreasing deforestation, and reducing industrial and agricultural emissions. These approaches are increasingly cost-competitive, consistent with large-scale use, and largely supported by public sentiment. Yet, the current pace of their deployment is far from sufficient for holding warming well below 2 C above preindustrial levels with high probability, the goal of the Paris Agreement. Two approaches for bridging this gap are widely discussed. First, the rate of decarbonization could be accelerated based on the above approaches.