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Apple launches clean energy programs in China to reduce environmental impact of its suppliers

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Six months after Apple said it wanted to stop climate change, rather than debate the issue, the company has announced two new programs that it says will reduce the carbon footprint of its manufacturing partners in China. The two schemes aim to avoid the production of more than 20 million metric tons of pollution between now and 2020 by building solar energy sources in the country's northern, eastern, and southern grid regions, and by partnering with suppliers to install clean energy projects over the coming years.

Apple's operations in China are now carbon neutral

At the same time, Apple also announced that it has completed 40 megawatts of solar projects in China's Sichuan province, capable of producing the same amount of energy used by Apple's retail stores and operations offices in the country. Apple says the completion of the projects makes the company carbon neutral in China, but that doesn't factor in the energy used by its manufacturers and suppliers. The two new schemes are intended to offset that energy usage, producing more than 200 megawatts of electricity through the new solar sources — enough to power 265,000 homes in China for a year — and by helping suppliers build projects that will offer more than 2 gigawatts of clean energy.

"Climate change is one of the great challenges of our time, and the time for action is now," Tim Cook said in a press release announcing the programs. "The transition to a new green economy requires innovation, ambition, and purpose. We believe passionately in leaving the world better than we found it and hope that many other suppliers, partners, and other companies join us in this important effort."

Tim Cook says climate change is real, and the time for action is now

Apple under Cook has been characterized by a strong stance on environmental issues. In April, Cook promoted Lisa Jackson — previously Apple's head executive for the environment — to policy lead within the company. In the same month, Apple overhauled a section on its site that detailed its environmental initiatives, including a video with voiceover from Cook himself in which he details Apple's efforts to earn a better environmental track record. The company has made large environmental strides in a short time, receiving criticism from Greenpeace in 2012, before new and aggressive clean energy policies earned it praise from the environmental group just two years later.

The company's investors have pushed for Apple to focus less on green initiatives and more on profit, but between new programs such as those announced today, the partnership announced with the Conservation Fund in the US earlier this year, and CEO Tim Cook's bullish stance on the sanctity of the environment, it seems like Apple won't be changing its sustainable course any time soon.