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Are Chinese internet companies doing enough to achieve the “Beautiful China” vision?

Written by KrASIA Connection Published on   3 mins read

As China aims for a greener future, scrutiny intensifies on the environmental efforts of its leading tech companies. Are they rising to the challenge?

Not everyone sees eye to eye with China’s policies, but one thing is clear: when Beijing makes a promise, it delivers. That’s why every new policy from the Chinese government gets scrutinized, with observers wary of the potential impacts.

While much of the recent spotlight has been on the tech rivalry between China and the US, another significant initiative has been quietly progressing—Beijing’s vision of “building a Beautiful China.”

Launched in 2012, this initiative focuses on ecological protection, sustainable resource use, and harmonious coexistence with nature. Last year, President Xi Jinping renewed interest in this vision at the National Conference on Ecological and Environmental Protection, emphasizing the next few years as pivotal. He called for a comprehensive approach to pollution reduction, green development, and environmental conservation, aiming for carbon neutrality by 2060.

In response, Chinese internet companies have been ramping up their sustainability efforts. Climate target setting has become more common, but the key is following through and achieving measurable outcomes.

Greenpeace recently analyzed the progress of 25 Chinese companies in its “Clean Cloud 2024” report, focusing on energy usage. The report highlights that only eight out of the 25 companies, including tech giants like Tencent and ByteDance, have announced plans to fully switch to renewable energy sources by 2030. Six of these companies have also set carbon neutrality goals for Scope 1 and 2 emissions within the same timeframe.

As of June 2024, five of the analyzed companies reported annual renewable energy ratios exceeding 10%, compared to just one in June 2022. Alibaba Group, for example, purchased 1.61 billion kilowatt-hours of renewable energy in 2023, while Tencent’s contracted renewable energy exceeded 1.3 billion kWh in 2024. China Telecom and Chindata Group also reported significant renewable energy use. However, Baidu and VNET Group lagged behind, with renewable energy ratios of just 5.11% and 4.35%, respectively, in 2023.

A common strategy among these companies is deploying distributed photovoltaic projects at their data centers or operational buildings. Over 90% of the companies are doing this, and more than half are exploring advanced methods like source-grid-load-storage programs and distributed power trading to accelerate renewable energy adoption.

Despite some progress, there’s room for improvement. One major area where most companies fell short is Scope 3 emissions. Only Tencent has included Scope 3 emissions in its carbon neutrality goals, aiming for 2030. Disclosure of Scope 3 emissions is also lacking, with just nine companies providing data from 2022, compared to double that number disclosing electricity consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

Additionally, the recent rise of generative artificial intelligence has been driving up computing power consumption, leading to higher energy demand.

The silver lining? China leads the world in renewable energy. It has cut its carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by 34.4% and established the world’s largest carbon market. Its wind and solar power capacities are rapidly expanding and are expected to double by 2025.

The main challenge now is efficiently channeling renewable energy from its sources to end users. China’s vast geographical diversity and size mean considering factors like energy storage capacities, grid infrastructure, energy source accessibility, and, critically, cost. Ensuring renewable energy is as appealing, if not more so, than traditional nonrenewable sources is essential to maintain momentum toward a beautiful China and a greener future.


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