Apple wants to teach the world a lesson in sustainability

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One of the favorite claims of climate crisis deniers is that the various solutions to the crisis, those designed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees through a dramatic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, would be an economic disaster. They will hurt industries, eliminate a huge number of jobs and plunge the global economy into an ongoing recession. Various studies have tried to refute these claims, and of course marching towards a climate crisis itself can be an economic disaster (e.g., one of the consequences of the climate crisis is more epidemics like the current one, which of course led to a serious economic recession).

But research is research, often an academic matter that is easy for someone who wants to disregard or ignore. It’s much harder to underestimate reality, and this is now provided by Apple in the form of a comprehensive plan to fully balance all of its carbon emissions by 2030, demonstrating that aggressive adoption of climate crisis solutions not only does not hurt the economy but can also incentivize it – even when other industries, Are harmed by it.

Tim Cook Apple CEO Screenshot: From WWDC 2020

According to Apple’s plan, the company will reach a full balance of carbon emissions throughout its supply chain and products by the end of the decade. This is a wide-ranging commitment (though not necessarily the widest of them all among the technology giants), and because of Apple’s size and scope of production, compliance with it could also affect greenhouse gas emissions in the supply chain and products of other companies.

As of today, Apple’s corporate activity is already balanced in terms of its carbon emissions. That is, the volume of greenhouse gas emissions from Apple’s offices and stores is very low and is the same as the amount of carbon captured by various means such as trees planted by the company. This is possible, among other things, thanks to an ambitious plan to transfer all its facilities to 100% renewable energy, which was completed in 2018. However, Apple is also responsible for carbon emissions from its complex supply chain and the production of its various devices, which has earned the company quite a bit of criticism.

California's Apple headquarters has been operating on renewable energy since 2018 California’s Apple headquarters has been operating on renewable energy since 2018

Apple is now responding to criticism, pledging that by 2030 all of its operations – including its manufacturing and supply chain and devices throughout their lifecycle – will reach a full balance in carbon emissions. This means, the company says, that every device the company sells will have zero climatic impact.

“Business has a significant opportunity to help build a more sustainable future, one born out of a shared concern for the planet we share,” CEO Tim Cook said in a press release. “The innovation that drives our environmental journey is good not only for the planet – it is ten for us Create products with more efficient energy consumption and create clean energy sources worldwide. Climatic activity can be the foundation for a new era of innovation, job creation and stable economic growth. “With our commitment to carbon balance, we hope to be the ripple in water that creates a much greater change.”

Apple's servers run on renewable energy Apple’s servers run on renewable energy Photo: Apple

Apple’s plan includes two key strategies: reducing carbon emissions from its operations by 75% by 2030, and developing innovative solutions to remove carbon from the atmosphere that will offset the remaining 25%. For this purpose, Apple is planning a variety of moves in various areas. One of them is designing a low-carbon product, centered on using recycled or low-carbon materials in its products and promoting recycling. In this regard, Apple has created a recycling robot capable of disassembling various components in the iPhone and extracting from them reusable materials, has established a laboratory in Austin, Texas to develop recycling technologies for electronics, and significantly expands the preservation of recycled materials in its devices.

Apple windmills Apple windmills Photo: Apple

When it comes to energy consumption, Apple is documenting, among other things, investing $ 100 million in accelerating energy efficiency projects among its suppliers. In addition, 70 of the company’s suppliers have already committed to using 100% renewable energy. If suppliers meet this commitment it will prevent the emission of 14.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, equivalent to taking 3 million cars off the road each year. Apple has also built renewable energy facilities in places like Arizona, Oregon and Illinois that provide 80% of Apple’s energy consumption, equivalent to 150,000 homes. Worldwide, Apple is building one of the largest solar energy facilities in Scandinavia, as well as projects that will provide electricity to communities in the Philippines and Thailand.

Apple's solar stations Apple’s solar stations Photo: Apple

Apple also documents reducing emissions through technological improvements in the material processing process it uses. In this context, the company is promoting the development of the first ever emission-free aluminum melting process, in collaboration with its two aluminum suppliers, whose products are already integrated in the latest MacBook Pro 16-inch model. On the carbon removal side, Apple is investing in the restoration and protection of forests and ecosystems around the world, including savannah restoration in Kenya and mangrove forests in Colombia. The company also helped protect one million acres of forests in China, the United States, Colombia and Kenya.

Apple MacBook Pro Apple MacBook Pro Photo: Apple website screen

Apple’s plan is not perfect. “What Apple has done is just the beginning of a carbon removal strategy,” Dr. Simon Nicholson, director of the Institute for Carbon Degradation and Law at American University, told the New York Times. “Holding carbon in forests for a year or two is not enough. It needs to be kept in the forests for a long time, hundreds of years. “And yet, it is one of the ambitious things seen from the private sector, and beyond, and includes far more ambitious goals than those needed by scientists to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees (halving emissions by 2030 Even without the offsets planned by Apple, the company is expected to absolutely reduce its emissions to a greater extent than necessary by 2030.

Nor can the impact of Apple’s moves on the industry be more widely ignored. Many Apple vendors work with other companies. If their facilities are in carbon balance, it means that the volume of emissions in the production chain of other players will also decrease significantly. Processes like carbon smelting without carbon emissions can also benefit other companies that use metal in their products. This is true of various developments promoted by the company, for example through the establishment of an accelerator for start-ups that work to find solutions in the field of supply chain. Apple also sells surplus power from renewable energies to nearby communities, thus helping to reduce the share of fossil fuels in the power grid.

The perimeter result will be much broader than Apple’s own activity. However, this should not lead to giving up on other technology companies that can and should do much more than they do now (first, important and simple step: stop providing services that help fossil fuel companies search, produce and distribute. Step two: stop contributing to climate deniers.

But no less important is the example that the plan provides that there is not necessarily a contradiction between tackling the climate crisis and economic growth. Just look at some of the ventures, companies and innovations the company is promoting to meet its goals: assisting young start-ups, working with veteran vendors and supporting upgrading their facilities, developing a variety of innovative procedures at different stages in its supply chain, emphasizing unrepresented populations and underprivileged areas, even work and investment With environmental organizations. It is not just a program, it is an economic ecosystem that can launch growth in a variety of fields and sectors around the world, often with an emphasis on people and entities suffering from economic inferiority.

Will there be those who will be harmed by such changes? Most likely yes, and above all of course fossil fuel companies whose potential market is only shrinking. But on the other hand, as Apple’s program demonstrates, tackling the climate crisis aggressively can lead to the growth of new industries, new companies, new entrepreneurs, new communities. And that’s without even talking about all the indirect benefits that come from reducing air pollution (4 million deaths a year), both in people’s health and in reducing health spending as a result.

So the next time some demagogue starts whining about the economic damage it will cause if we try to save our planet, there should be no showing him academic studies or complex assessments. Suffice it to send him a link to the details of Apple’s plan, for all the financial benefits derived from it. If it does not do the job, it is probably already a lost cause.



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