IBM Puts Carbon Capture At Forefront of Emissions Goals

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Carbon capture technology appears to be critical for IBM to achieve its pledge to reach net zero emissions by 2030. The company is aiming to become net zero by 2030 and in order to do so, it aims to use:

  • 75% renewable electricity by 2025;
  • 90% by 2030;
  • Feasible technologies, such as carbon capture to remove emissions in an amount that equals or exceeds IBM’s residual emissions. 

Most of IBM’s carbon footprint comes from its data centers. Data centers are expected to take up more than 10% of the world’s electricity use by 2030. That is according to a 2015 study published in the journal Challenges. IBM is uniquely positioned to address the challenge of data center energy consumption.

“Without a doubt, we are relying on some technologies that don’t exist yet,” said Mr. Whitehurst, head of IBM’s cloud computing businesses. “The reason we feel confident in doing that is we are at the center of helping develop those technologies.”

Last year, IBM Research launched a new global initiative called the Future of Climate. It unites researchers across worldwide labs focused on developing and demonstrating innovations to enable sustainable hybrid cloud, climate-smart AI platforms, and accelerated materials discovery for carbon capture. Recently, the company announced its own research of capturing carbon is speeding up the development of this emerging technology. This is also helping the company reach its green targets. 

This research is on a sustainable hybrid cloud solution that enables companies to measure, visualize, and optimize the carbon footprint of their workloads running in the hybrid cloud. But the technology could also be used to speed up the discovery of new materials that capture CO2 at its emission source. That is another pressing challenge for the industry. 

Why IBM Needs Carbon Capture?

Climate-smart AI platforms are essential to enable carbon responsibility and business resiliency. Extreme weather events and pandemics are expected to become more frequent and severe. Therefore, businesses must understand risks, anticipate impacts, and optimize operations. This AI-powered platform performs carbon footprint accounting and climate-aware supply chain optimization. 

Even though this technology will help the company actually reduce its carbon footprint, IBM also needs a solution for its remaining emissions. “We couple our net zero ambition with a specific numerical target for residual emissions” said Wayne Balta, IBM’s Vice President for Environmental Affairs and Product Safety. 

Here, this research is shooting two birds with one stone. The sustainable hybrid cloud solution it is developing can also accelerate the discovery of new materials that can capture CO2. That is a potential pathway for IBM to tackle its residual emissions. On average, it takes at least ten years for new materials for CO2 capture and separation to be discovered and brought to market. The sentiment right now is that a decade is too long for companies to wait. Therefore, by combining artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and hybrid cloud, the discovery of these new materials could be accelerated. 

IBM is also keen to turn its climate change innovation into a profitable future opportunity. This way it can also compete with giants like Amazon and Microsoft in reducing the emissions of the energy-intensive cloud market.

By combining its Future of Climate scientific agenda, and its AI expertise across IBM Research, the company has a chance to make utilization of carbon capture at global scale a reality. Without this technology it would be extremely difficult for IBM to keep up the trajectory towards net zero by 2030. 

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