VIRTUAL CLIMATE NEUTRALITY
The information and communication technology (ICT) sector contributes approximately 2 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. However, the use of computers to control and organize every aspect of our lives and economies gives this sector a significant influence over the remaining 98 per cent.
Dell, one of the world’s leading makers of computers and computer-related products, has made the decision to go climate neutral. But as its own analysis shows [see graphic], even offsetting every tonne of carbon dioxide required by the agreed protocol for carbon neutrality accounts for a relatively small portion of the emissions associated with its business.
Dell counts within its greenhouse gas inventory the direct emissions from its own factories and facilities worldwide, plus those from business travel. Together, they add up to about 470,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2008-2009.
These emissions were, however, the tip of a much larger iceberg which Dell judges to be linked to its own business and
products. About twenty times the company’s own emissions are reckoned to be produced from so-called “upstream” and “downstream” sources—upstream being emissions from making and shipping components, and downstream being the electricity used in the running of Dell’s computers and servers worldwide. Emissions from each of these sources are estimated at 5 million tonnes annually.
For its carbon neutral commitment, Dell is committed to reducing its direct and business travel emissions as far as possible, and offsetting the rest. Since around 80 per cent of these emissions come from electricity, that is where the focus is concentrated.
After exhausting the maximum efficiency improvements, Dell undertakes to account for all of its electricity use through pur- chase of renewable energy. As far as possible this is done through negotiation with the utilities that supply the power itself—in the United States Dell is able to source 36 per cent from renewable generation technologies, and 26 per cent worldwide, well above the average availability for renewable power.