Apple commits to being '100 per cent carbon neutral' by 2030

Apple commits to being ‘100 per cent carbon neutral’ across its entire business including its supply chain by 2030

  • Tech giant brings carbon neutral target to its entire operations forward to 2030 
  • All Apple’s data centres are already powered by 100 per cent renewable energy
  • But the new target will extend to the manufacturing of iPhones, iPads and Macs 

Tech giant Apple has said it will be 100 per cent carbon neutral by 2030 by offsetting emissions of the greenhouse gas from its operations.

The iPhone maker said it will have a net zero carbon footprint in 10 years across its entire business, including its manufacturing supply chain.

Apple is already carbon neutral for its global corporate operations, such as its offices and data centres, which are powered by 100 per cent renewable energy. 

But this new commitment means every Apple device sold, including iPhones and Mac computers, will have net zero climate impact, according to the company. 

Apple’s most recent environmental report, covering the fiscal year 2018, put its carbon footprint at 25.2 million tons. 

The company is responsible for consuming huge quantities of energy to sustain its operations, generated from carbon-generating power sources.

It also mines the Earth for materials to make its iPhones, which leave discarded components that emit harmful chemicals into the atmosphere once expended. 

Tech companies such as Apple are feeling the pressure to curb their carbon footprint to avoid potentially catastrophic effects of global warming at the end of this century. 

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CEO Tim Cook tweeted that Apple’s entire business will be carbon neutral by the year 2030. ‘The planet we share can’t wait, and we want to be a ripple in the pond that creates a much larger change,’ he said

Carbon neutrality means having a balance between emitting carbon and absorbing carbon from the atmosphere.

Companies aim to balance carbon emissions with carbon removal through various projects, or, even better, remove their carbon emissions altogether. 

However, this is difficult for big companies like Apple to do, meaning they plug their efforts into the fact they offset their emissions with green projects.  

Removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and then storing it is known as carbon sequestration.

In order to achieve net zero emissions, all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions will have to be counterbalanced by carbon sequestration. 

Renewable sources of energy like solar and wind have low carbon footprints.   

‘Businesses have a profound opportunity to help build a more sustainable future, one born of our common concern for the planet we share,’ said Apple CEO Tim Cook in a blog post. 

‘By 2030, Apple’s entire business will be carbon neutral – from supply chain to the power you use in every device we make.

‘The planet we share can’t wait, and we want to be a ripple in the pond that creates a much larger change.’ 

Apple told MailOnline it was already committed to working towards carbon neutrality – since 2018, 100 percent of the electricity used at its facilities has come from renewable sources – but it hadn’t previously committed to a specific timeline for its entire footprint. 

Apple plans to achieve 75 per cent of the goal by reducing emissions, with the remaining 25 per cent coming from carbon removal or offset projects such as planting trees and restoring habitats. 

Apple has formed a ‘roadmap’ for carbon neutrality on its website, which it said would assist other companies in their efforts to reduce their impact on climate change. 

The 2020 Environmental Progress Report released today, explains the tech giant’s plans to reduce emissions by 75 percent by 2030 and develop ‘innovative carbon removal solutions’ for the remaining 25 percent. 

Apple said 74 per cent of its overall carbon emissions are generated by manufacturing products such as its iPhones, iPads and Mac computers.  

The company has therefore been working with suppliers to reduce emissions by using recycled materials.

iPhones now use recycled rare earth elements in a component called the taptic engine, which enables its products to emit tactile sensations in the form of subtle vibrations.

Apple says its latest recycling innovation – a robot called Dave – disassembles the taptic engine from iPhones to better recover key materials such as rare earth magnets and tungsten. 

Since 2014, all of Apple’s data centers have been powered by 100 per cent renewable energy

Apple’s latest recycling invention – a robot called Dave – recovers material from an iPhone component for better use in future products

All iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch devices released in the past year are also made with recycled materials, including 100 percent recycled rare earth elements in the taptic engine, which is ‘a first for Apple and for any smartphone’. 

Apple is also supporting the development of the first-ever direct carbon-free aluminium smelting process through investments and collaboration with two of its aluminium suppliers.

It said the first batch of this low-carbon aluminium is currently being used in production of the 16-inch MacBook Pro. 

Elsewhere in its report, Apple continues to highlight its carbon-busting policies in place in preparation for carbon neutrality in 10 years.        

Apple claims to now have a commitment from more than 70 suppliers to use 100 percent renewable energy for production.

This is equivalent to nearly 8 gigawatts in commitments to power the manufacturing of its products. 

Apple supported the development of an aluminium production method that releases oxygen, rather than greenhouse gases, during the smelting process

‘Once completed, these commitments will avoid over 14.3 million metric tons of CO2e annually – the equivalent of taking more than 3 million cars off the road each year,’ the tech giant said.  

Apple said its carbon removal efforts will also come via a fund to assist projects such as restoring mangrove ecosystems in Colombia and savannas in Kenya. 

The company also said it will identify new ways to lower energy use at its corporate facilities and help its supply chain make the same transition. 

Apple’s plan contrasts with other companies such as Microsoft, which earlier this year said it would invest $1 billion over the next four years in engineering-based carbon removal technologies.   

Microsoft pledged earlier this year to become carbon negative by removing more carbon from the atmosphere than it emits by 2030. 

By 2050, Microsoft will also remove from the environment all the carbon the company has emitted either directly or by electrical consumption since it was founded in 1975. 

Meanwhile Amazon has a target of 2040 to become carbon neutral, while Google, which relies on wind power to support operations at its data centres, has already been carbon neutral for 12 years. 

Revealed: MailOnline dissects the impact greenhouse gases have on the planet – and what is being done to stop air pollution

Emissions

Carbon dioxide

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is one of the biggest contributors to global warming. After the gas is released into the atmosphere it stays there, making it difficult for heat to escape – and warming up the planet in the process. 

It is primarily released from burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas, as well as cement production. 

The average monthly concentration of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere, as of April 2019, is 413 parts per million (ppm). Before the Industrial Revolution, the concentration was just 280 ppm. 

CO2 concentration has fluctuated over the last 800,000 years between 180 to 280ppm, but has been vastly accelerated by pollution caused by humans. 

Nitrogen dioxide 

The gas nitrogen dioxide (NO2) comes from burning fossil fuels, car exhaust emissions and the use of nitrogen-based fertilisers used in agriculture.

Although there is far less NO2 in the atmosphere than CO2, it is between 200 and 300 times more effective at trapping heat.

Sulfur dioxide 

Sulfur dioxide (SO2) also primarily comes from fossil fuel burning, but can also be released from car exhausts.

SO2 can react with water, oxygen and other chemicals in the atmosphere to cause acid rain. 

Carbon monoxide 

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an indirect greenhouse gas as it reacts with hydroxyl radicals, removing them. Hydroxyl radicals reduce the lifetime of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. 

Particulates

What is particulate matter?

Particulate matter refers to tiny parts of solids or liquid materials in the air. 

Some are visible, such as dust, whereas others cannot be seen by the naked eye. 

Materials such as metals, microplastics, soil and chemicals can be in particulate matter.

Particulate matter (or PM) is described in micrometres. The two main ones mentioned in reports and studies are PM10 (less than 10 micrometres) and PM2.5 (less than 2.5 micrometres).

Air pollution comes from burning fossil fuels, cars, cement making and agriculture 

Scientists measure the rate of particulates in the air by cubic metre.

Particulate matter is sent into the air by a number of processes including burning fossil fuels, driving cars and steel making.

Why are particulates dangerous?

Particulates are dangerous because those less than 10 micrometres in diameter can get deep into your lungs, or even pass into your bloodstream. Particulates are found in higher concentrations in urban areas, particularly along main roads. 

Health impact

What sort of health problems can pollution cause?

According to the World Health Organization, a third of deaths from stroke, lung cancer and heart disease can be linked to air pollution. 

Some of the effects of air pollution on the body are not understood, but pollution may increase inflammation which narrows the arteries leading to heart attacks or strokes. 

As well as this, almost one in 10 lung cancer cases in the UK are caused by air pollution. 

Particulates find their way into the lungs and get lodged there, causing inflammation and damage. As well as this, some chemicals in particulates that make their way into the body can cause cancer. 

Deaths from pollution 

Around seven million people die prematurely because of air pollution every year. Pollution can cause a number of issues including asthma attacks, strokes, various cancers and cardiovascular problems. 

 

Asthma triggers

Air pollution can cause problems for asthma sufferers for a number of reasons. Pollutants in traffic fumes can irritate the airways, and particulates can get into your lungs and throat and make these areas inflamed. 

Problems in pregnancy 

Women exposed to air pollution before getting pregnant are nearly 20 per cent more likely to have babies with birth defects, research suggested in January 2018.

Living within 3.1 miles (5km) of a highly-polluted area one month before conceiving makes women more likely to give birth to babies with defects such as cleft palates or lips, a study by University of Cincinnati found.

For every 0.01mg/m3 increase in fine air particles, birth defects rise by 19 per cent, the research adds. 

Previous research suggests this causes birth defects as a result of women suffering inflammation and ‘internal stress’. 

What is being done to tackle air pollution? 

Paris agreement on climate change

The Paris Agreement, which was first signed in 2015, is an international agreement to control and limit climate change. 

It hopes to hold the increase in the global average temperature to below 2°C (3.6ºF) ‘and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C (2.7°F)’.

Carbon neutral by 2050 

The UK government has announced plans to make the country carbon neutral by 2050. 

They plan to do this by planting more trees and by installing ‘carbon capture’ technology at the source of the pollution.

Some critics are worried that this first option will be used by the government to export its carbon offsetting to other countries.

International carbon credits let nations continue emitting carbon while paying for trees to be planted elsewhere, balancing out their emissions.

No new petrol or diesel vehicles by 2040

In 2017, the UK government announced the sale of new petrol and diesel cars would be banned by 2040. 

From around 2020, town halls will be allowed to levy extra charges on diesel drivers using the UK’s 81 most polluted routes if air quality fails to improve.

However,  MPs on the climate change committee have urged the government to bring the ban forward to 2030, as by then they will have an equivalent range and price.

The Paris Agreement, which was first signed in 2015, is an international agreement to control and limit climate change. Pictured: air pollution over Paris in 2019.

Norway’s electric car subsidies

The speedy electrification of Norway’s automotive fleet is attributed mainly to generous state subsidies. Electric cars are almost entirely exempt from the heavy taxes imposed on petrol and diesel cars, which makes them competitively priced.

A VW Golf with a standard combustion engine costs nearly 334,000 kroner (34,500 euros, $38,600), while its electric cousin the e-Golf costs 326,000 kroner thanks to a lower tax quotient. 

Criticisms of inaction on climate change

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has said there is a ‘shocking’ lack of Government preparation for the risks to the country from climate change. 

The committee assessed 33 areas where the risks of climate change had to be addressed – from flood resilience of properties to impacts on farmland and supply chains – and found no real progress in any of them.

The UK is not prepared for 2°C of warming, the level at which countries have pledged to curb temperature rises, let alone a 4°C rise, which is possible if greenhouse gases are not cut globally, the committee said.

It added that cities need more green spaces to stop the urban ‘heat island’ effect, and to prevent floods by soaking up heavy rainfall. 

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