According to Greenpeace, carbon dioxide emissions from China’s rapidly evolving digital infrastructure will more than double by 2035, another challenge to the government’s ambitious goal of reaching net zero by 2060.
Carbon dioxide emissions generated by 5G base stations and data centers are projected to continue rising even after major polluting industries such as steel and cement reach peak emissions around 2025, the nongovernmental organization said in a report released Friday. It could rise to 310 million tons a year by 2035, more than France’s total emissions.
China’s data use is expected to grow explosively in the coming years
China is home to the world’s largest 5G network and some of the largest data centers. Last year, these two industries consumed almost as much electricity as the megacities of Beijing and Shenzhen combined. More than 60 percent of that energy came from burning coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel, and by 2035 the amount of electricity consumed will nearly quadruple, according to the report.
Local governments are in the process of developing plans to peak emissions as China aims to become carbon neutral by 2060. Rising emissions from digital infrastructure is a serious problem they will have to address, Greenpeace said. To date, only two major Chinese data center companies, Chinadata Group Holdings Ltd. and Shanghai AtHub Co., have pledged to use 100 percent clean energy by 2030, the report said.
“Without urgent measures to increase clean energy use, the Internet sector’s contribution to China’s carbon footprint will continue to grow,” said Ye Ruizi, co-author of the report. “If Internet giants, including Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent, make the effort to achieve 100 percent renewable energy by 2030, they will play a crucial role in catalyzing China’s transition to a low-carbon sector.”