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Facebook hit a key climate goal

It cut down its climate pollution more than it originally planned to

App Photo Illustrations Photo Illustration by Nikolas Kokovlis/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Facebook announced today that it exceeded one of its biggest environmental goals: it managed to slash its greenhouse gas emissions by 94 percent in 2020. It had previously pledged to cut planet-heating emissions by 75 percent. The company said that it had also achieved its goal of “net zero emissions” — not putting any more emissions into the atmosphere than it can take out.

Facebook also announced that it had achieved another goal: it now purchases enough renewable energy to cover 100 percent of its global operations, which includes its offices and data centers. But that doesn’t mean that all of its operations are actually powered by renewables like solar and wind energy — at least not yet.

Renewable energy is on the rise, but most electricity grids still rely on fossil fuels. When companies can’t purchase enough renewable energy from utilities because there isn’t enough supply, they buy renewable energy certificates that signal that the company invested in renewable energy projects somewhere. Those projects can be located anywhere, and certificates have been sold for so cheap that critics say they don’t really lead to more renewable energy generation. Facebook also relies on renewable energy certificates, but it focuses on signing long-term contracts to support the construction of new solar and wind developments in the same places where it operates. It’s invested in 63 new renewable energy projects located on the same electrical grids as its data centers.

Its next target is to reach net zero emissions by 2030 for its entire supply chain and other indirect emissions that come from things like employee travel and commuting. To hit that goal, Facebook says that it developed environmental standards for its suppliers. It also plans to rely more heavily on emerging technologies that draw carbon dioxide out of the air.

Facebook has recently also tried to limit misinformation about climate change on its platform. Last year, it launched a “Climate Science Information Center” in some countries. In the UK this year, it started adding a label to some posts about climate change that redirect people to its information center. It all comes on the heels of criticism from activists and policymakers over how misinformation about climate change festered on the site, including one high-profile case of Facebook reversing a “false” rating that its fact-checkers gave to an op-ed based on inaccurate information.

“We know the next 10 years will be the defining time for reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and that we have a role to play in this effort — both as a platform that connects people to information and as a global company that supports climate action,” Facebook’s director of renewable energy, Urvi Parekh, wrote in a blog today.