ByteDance trails Tencent and Alibaba on climate goals and renewable energy use, Greenpeace says

ByteDance is seventh in Greenpeace East Asia’s latest climate ranking of China’s nine cloud providers. While Chinese technology companies are making rapid progress towards cutting carbon emissions, there is room for further improvement, non-profit says. — SCMP

ByteDance, which owns short video app TikTok and recently forayed into cloud services, is one of the lowest ranked cloud providers in China, according to Greenpeace East Asia’s latest climate ranking of the country’s technology sector.

The company ranked seventh among nine cloud providers, as it is yet to announce carbon neutrality goals or disclose its energy usage data.

The report, released on Tuesday, clubbed together nine cloud providers and 15 data centre operators, which account for more than 80% and 78% of China’s public cloud and data centre markets, respectively.

Tencent Holdings, Alibaba Group Holding, the owner of this newspaper, and Baidu took the top three spots among cloud providers because of their climate commitments, increase in renewable energy procurement and data transparency, according to Greenpeace.

“ByteDance is not keeping up with its peers in China when it comes to climate commitments and renewable energy use,” said Ye Ruiqi, Greenpeace East Asia’s climate and energy project manager based in Beijing. “Tech giants like Tencent and GDS (Holdings) have set ambitious targets and are starting to procure renewable energy at scale, but ByteDance has not even disclosed the greenhouse gas emissions from its own operations.”

China’s data centres and related infrastructure have become a major source of energy consumption and carbon emissions. In 2020, data centres and 5G networks in China together consumed 201 billion kilowatt hours of electricity, roughly the same as the combined consumption in Beijing and Shenzhen. Carbon emissions from the nation’s digital infrastructure are projected to reach 310 million tonnes in 2035 from 123 million in 2020, according to a separate Greenpeace last year.

Among data centre operators, GDS Holdings topped the list for its commitment to reach carbon neutrality and 100 per cent renewable energy usage by 2030. Chindata Group and VNET rounded off the top three.

The ranking, released annually since early 2020, has seen an increasing number of Chinese technology companies make rapid progress towards cutting carbon emissions, according to Greenpeace Asia.

Since Chinese President Xi Jinping’s pledge in 2020 to reach peak emissions by 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions by 2060, eight major technology conglomerates with cloud and data centre businesses, including Tencent, Alibaba and GDS Holdings, have made a commitment to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030. In addition, six other ranked companies have pledged to achieve 100 per cent renewable energy use by 2030, compared to only Chindata in last year’s ranking.

However, the report found there is still room for improvement among China’s cloud services and data centre providers to achieve a significant climate impact. For example, GDS was the only company whose renewable energy use exceeded 30% in 2021. All other ranked companies utilise less than 10% renewable energy or have not disclosed renewable energy usage data.

In addition, four out of five companies have not disclosed Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions data, which includes all other indirect emissions that occur in a company’s value chain, Greenpeace found.

“When companies set carbon neutrality targets it’s critical that their entire supply chain is included, not just their own operations,” said Ye, adding that companies should also focus on direct procurement methods, such as green power trading and constructing wind and solar power plants.

Carbon offsets are not a substitute for direct emissions cuts and should not serve as an excuse for continued fossil fuel reliance, Ye said. – South China Morning Post

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