IBM pledges to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 to address the global climate crisis. The data centers that power the internet consume vast amounts of electricity and emit as much carbon dioxide as the airline industry, according to a 2018 Yale University article.

To achieve its net-zero goal IBM will: reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 65% by 2025 against base year 2010; procure 75% of the electricity it consumes worldwide from renewable sources by 2025, and 90% by 2030; and use feasible technologies—such as carbon capture—in or by 2030, to remove emissions in an amount which equals or exceeds the level of IBM’s residual emissions.

The majority of the company’s greenhouse gas emissions comes from its electricity consumption, said Edan T. Dionne, vice-president, Environmental, Energy and Chemical Management Programs with IBM’s Corporate Environmental Affairs staff, in an e-mail interview with BusinessWorld.

“Our data center operations have the greatest demand for electricity, followed by locations where we perform research, development, and manufacturing operations,” she said. “The spaces with least energy intensity are our offices/administrative buildings.”

To neutralize its residual emissions, IBM will have to depend on the carbon removal technologies available in the 175 countries it serves, each of them having varying renewable generation infrastructure. 

“In countries that lack either government policy or capacity to support renewables, it will be more challenging for us to increase our renewables consumption,” said Ms. Dionne, “but we are committed and are confident that we will meet our goal.”

IBM Research also launched a Future of Climate initiative designed to accelerate the discovery of solutions to address the impacts of a changing climate. Researchers use a combination of artificial intelligence, hybrid cloud, and quantum computing to help solve climate-related problems and develop new materials that can absorb carbon at the origin of emission.

“The climate crisis is one of the most pressing issues of our time. IBM’s net-zero pledge is a bold step forward that strengthens our long-standing climate leadership and positions our company years ahead of the targets set out in the Paris Climate Agreement,” said Arvind Krishna, chairman and chief executive officer of IBM, in a statement. — Patricia B. Mirasol