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Google workers are again calling on the company to cut all of its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. In a letter sent to chief financial officer Ruth Porat today, the employees also ask Google to end contracts with fossil fuel companies and eliminate funding for think tanks, politicians, or lobbyists that impede action on climate change. They’re doubling down on demands that were made across the tech sector in September when employees at Google, Amazon, and Microsoft joined the Global Climate Strike.
Google workers go one step further
Previous letters from staff at Amazon and Microsoft have also pushed for those three measures. Google workers go one step further: they are demanding that their company cease collaboration with any institution that harms people who are coping with the effects of a changing climate. They write that they want no part in the “incarceration, surveillance, displacement, or oppression” of refugees or other communities affected by climate change.
“Google is a global company with billions of users across the world, many of whom are already bearing the brunt of climate disaster,” the letter reads. “As Google workers, we are committed to putting our users first, and Google must do the same.”
Google came under fire from 1,495 of its workers in August over a cloud computing contract with US Customs and Border Protection. Those employees signed a petition “demanding that the tech industry refuse to provide the infrastructure for mass atrocity.” The petition called attention to migrant children who died while in the custody of Customs and Border Protection. It also called the separation of children from their families and their captivity in detention centers “immoral by any standard.” One of the factors driving recent migration from Central America to the United States is an ongoing drought exacerbated by climate change.
This new letter comes just weeks after The Guardian reported on “substantial contributions” Google makes to organizations that oppose policies on environmental protection and refute the piles of scientific evidence on climate change. “We’re hardly alone among companies that contribute to organizations while strongly disagreeing with them on climate policy,” a Google spokesperson told The Verge in October when asked about The Guardian’s report.
The company declined to comment on the workers’ latest letter.
Google has made some big pledges when it comes to environmental responsibility. It became carbon neutral in 2007. In comparison, Amazon set a goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2040 less than two months ago. Last year, Google surpassed its target of buying more renewable energy than it uses, and in September, it pledged to make “the biggest corporate purchase of renewable energy in history,” growing its wind and solar portfolio by 40 percent. The company said in 2018 that its long-term goal is to source “carbon-free energy on a truly 24×7 basis,” although the timeline on that is still murky.
Google still runs on fossil fuels
Those efforts have shrunken and offset the tech giant’s carbon footprint, but Google’s operations still run on fossil fuels. It generated 4.9 metric tons of greenhouse gases in 2018, which is equivalent to carbon from more than 1 million passenger vehicles on the road for one year. According to at least one researcher’s estimate, Google searches alone account for 40 percent of the entire internet’s carbon footprint. That’s why the company’s climate-concerned workers are asking it to do even more and take action to end greenhouse gas emissions completely “in accordance with the gravity and urgency of the global climate crisis and its disproportionate harm to marginalized people.”