NewClimate Institute Reacts to Apple’s Carbon Neutral Apple Watch Claims

Originally published at: NewClimate Institute Reacts to Apple’s Carbon Neutral Apple Watch Claims - TidBITS

While noting that Apple is doing a better job than most multinationals with regard to the transparency and integrity of its climate pledges and strategies, the NewClimate Institute finds that Apple’s claims of carbon neutrality somewhat exaggerated.

The NewClimate Institute is taking a very hard line on Apple’s claims, and I would say they are being fair. Carbon offsets may have seemed like a good idea when the idea was launched, but they have become very dodgy. They are used mainly to “offset” emissions that are difficult or expensive to reduce. Airlines are a good example; we’re a long, long way from “zero-emission” airliners. So people concerned about the environment who wanted to minimize their emissions, would buy carbon offsets. But groups like the NewClimate Institute started looking carefully at the offsets, they found the projects being funded often would have been done anyway, or weren’t actually going to reduce carbon emissions significantly. Apple should know better, and be honest about emissions – or their limited ability to control the emissions of their suppliers.

What Apple should be doing is trying to reduce their environmental impact is developing ways to reduce consumption of materials and power and increase reuse, like designing MacMini or iMac enclosures that could be refurbished to house the next generation of electronics. Apple already is doing a good job in reducing the power use of its products, which is an important part of controlling emissions.

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Yeah, I think Apple is aware of the issues with carbon credit offsets, given this bit in the press release about the carbon neutral watches. And what Apple is doing in this regard sounds positive, but overall, it seems that offsets just aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

Investing in High-Quality Carbon Removal

After achieving steep reductions in product emissions, Apple plans to cover residual emissions with high-quality carbon credits primarily from nature-based projects that remove carbon from the atmosphere, like restoring grasslands, wetlands, and forests. Carbon removal is critical to addressing climate change and achieving global climate goals, as leading scientific bodies like the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have emphasized.

Apple defines high-quality credits as those from projects that are real, additional, measurable, and quantified, with systems in place to avoid double-counting, and that ensure permanence. Apple has helped advance natural carbon-removal solutions that meet this definition by creating the innovative Restore Fund, which currently supports projects in Latin America. The company uses credits from projects that are certified to international standards such as Verra; the Climate, Community & Biodiversity Standards; and the Forest Stewardship Council.

For the carbon neutral Apple Watch models, the high-quality carbon credits used to compensate for the remaining emissions will come from projects like the Restore Fund’s investments with Arbaro Advisors and BTG Pactual Timberland Investment Group, which are helping to restore and protect high-quality working forests and native ecosystems in Paraguay and Brazil.

Part of the problem may be that some of these projects may have other benefits, such as planting mangroves in coastal areas where they’ll protect the shoreline from rising sea levels and intense storms. Apple may want to do such things and get credit for them as a carbon sink as well, in essence double-dipping on legitimately useful projects.

I agree. To me, Apple was trying to do the right thing, but when it came to trying to reach worthy goal of zero emissions they yielded to the temptation to fudge the accounting rather than admitting that they don’t yet have a way to reach the goal on schedule.