IBM’s Next Generation Goals for Renewable Energy and Greenhouse Gas Emissions

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IBM has a long history of taking action to reduce its environmental impacts and has delivered significant energy conservation results and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions for nearly three decades. Building upon the company’s early and sustained record in addressing climate change, we recently announced IBM’s fourth-generation GHG emissions reduction goal and a second-generation renewable electricity procurement goal.

IBM’s new goals cover the energy consumption and corresponding carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions associated with our company’s global operations – from research, product development and manufacturing activities to our enterprise and cloud data center operations. The goals include all of IBM’s activities whether they take place in real estate managed by IBM or by a third-party landlord.

Specifically, our next generation goals state:

  • Renewable Electricity Procurement: Procure 55 percent of the electricity IBM consumes globally from renewable supplies by 2025.
  • GHG Emissions Reductions: Reduce CO2 emissions associated with IBM’s energy consumption 40 percent by 2025 against base year 2005.

Achieving our CO2 emissions reduction goal requires an annual reduction of 2.2 percent of IBM’s CO2 emissions from 2010 to 2025, exceeding the 2 percent reduction per year science-based benchmark recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its 2014 5th Assessment Report. Our goal is also inline with IPCC’s recommendations in its 2018 Special Report, “Global Warming of 1.5°C,” calling for a 2.25 percent per year reduction in GHG emissions from 2010 to 2030 to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

We are working with IBM’s energy providers to increase our procurement and consumption of renewable electricity. We also are collaborating with peers in industry, energy providers, and nongovernmental organizations to increase the portion of renewable electricity incorporated into reliable grid electricity supplies. A sustainable renewable energy future requires not only the capacity to generate renewable energy but also better grid integration and an enhanced forecasting and demand management system.

Importantly, IBM does not plan to use unbundled renewable energy certificates (RECs) as a means of asserting that IBM is using renewable energy. In the case of unbundled RECs, an electricity provider generates renewable electricity and then creates a certificate (i.e., a REC) which represents that renewable electricity. Furthermore, the provider separates or “unbundles” the certificate from the renewable electricity with which it is affiliated so it can sell the electricity and the certificate separately from each other. The electricity is sold into the grid region in which it is generated, but the “unbundled” REC is often sold to an entity which is not actually consuming that renewable electricity. Instead, that entity may be a consumer of conventional electricity (i.e., fossil fuels) in other grid regions which purchases unbundled RECs to offset the emissions from its ongoing consumption of fossil fuels. There is no physical connection between the facility generating the renewable electricity and the entity purchasing an unbundled REC. Stated another way, purchasing unbundled RECs does not equate to consuming the renewable electricity with which they’re affiliated.

We have set our goals with a clear focus on matching, as much as feasible, our purchases of renewable electricity with our actual consumption of renewable electricity. We will also continue to transparently communicate our goals and performance.

Our next generation goals are aggressive and are consistent with IBM’s commitment to environmental leadership. We will continue to innovate, conserve energy, procure renewable electricity, and reduce GHG emissions.

Wayne Balta is Vice President for Corporate Environmental Affairs and Product Safety at IBM.

Related Resources:

Environmental Commitment, Action and Results

Celebrating Three Decades of IBM Leadership on Climate Change

2017 IBM and the Environment Report

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