Facebook has announced that it has achieved a status of ‘net zero’ in its operational emissions through the purchase of 100% renewable energy for its data centres and buildings, with remaining emissions offset.
Facebook set a goal in 2018 of achieving carbon neutrality by 2020, and has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 94% since then. It is among the world’s largest corporate buyers of renewable energy, alongside Amazon and Google, and has contracts in place for six gigawatts of wind and solar, across 18 states and five countries (comprised of 63 new projects on the same electrical grids as the data centres they are supporting).
Facebook also announced that is has completed its first purchase of renewable energy in India, a growing market for the company and the renewable energy industry more broadly. The project is a 32 megawatt wind farm in Karnataka, the same region that recently announced a plan to phase-out coal-fired power in a short frame.
The announcement has been made in the lead-up to Earth Day, April 22, in which many companies will be announcing environment and climate related news. Facebook also announced a plan to enable partnerships with volunteer activities and reiterated its ‘hub’ for climate science.
A spokesperson for the company told Business Green that the company had reduced its emissions by around 2.6 million metric tons through the use of renewable energy purchases, and that the offsets relate to just 37,000 tons. The company plans to achieve net zero across all elements of its business by 2030. Facebook’s 2019 Sustainability Report says the company’s emissions peaked in 2017 at 616,000 tonnes of CO2 and was 251,000 tonnes in 2019, with data centre operations comprising the majority of emissions for all years.
Facebook’s misinformation problems are worsening
Facebook’s effort to counter climate misinformation on its platform have been heavily criticised as outdated and insufficient. The “Climate science information centre” provides hyperlinks to various scientific organisations, but the company does not ban or throttle climate and energy related misinformation. In September, US journalists Emily Atkin and Judd Legum revealed a range of serious mistakes made by Facebook in identifying climate misinformation.
It’s critical for people to understand this is the bare minimum a company can do in the middle of a climate emergency.
The biggest source of emissions from social platforms is not their data centers. It’s their advertising + content policies.
— Luke Kingma (@LukeKingma) April 15, 2021
“Facebook admits climate disinformation on its platform is a rampant problem, but is only taking half measures to stop it. This new policy is a small step forward but does not address the larger climate disinformation crisis hiding in plain sight”, said a range of environmental organisations, including Greenpeace, Earthjustice and Friends of the Earth.
Earlier this year, a RenewEconomy debunk article of a false viral Facebook post was itself marked with a misinformation warning due automated mis-classification (the warning still appears on the post).
This week, US website ‘The Markup’ revealed that one of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies, ExxonMobil, has been paying Facebook to target pro-fossil ads towards specific political persuasions, with left-leaning users shown ads focusing on emissions reductions, but conservative users seeing ads focusing on regulations and economic growth.
Australian crossbench politician Craig Kelly, formerly of the Liberal party, is known for posting extreme quantities of climate and energy misinformation on his Facebook page, and has not been restricted from using the platform to reach an extremely large audience for that misinformation, among the highest among all Australia politicians.
Though Facebook’s gradual decarbonisation of its operational emissions is admirable, it is likely to face increasing scrutiny for its ongoing failures to address climate misinformation on its platform.