Video streaming giant Netflix has announced a plan to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2022.
The company’s Net Zero + Nature will see the company make more environmentally friendly productions, as well create offset programmes to restore and conserve areas like grasslands and tropical forests.
The company committed to a 45% cut in emissions from its own activities and from the electricity it uses by 2030.
“The advice of more than 60+ experts shaped our strategy, from researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, to renewable energy and sustainable aviation experts at ENGIE Impact, to policy pros at Natural Resources Defense Council,” said Netflix Sustainability Officer Emma Stewart.
Netflix was able to reduce its carbon output in 2020, producing 1.1 million tonnes of emissions, compared to 1.3 million in 2019.
According to the company, production accounted for 55% of that. The 40% is produced by its, corporate offices and purchased goods, with the last 5% from its content delivery network.
However, the company noted that it does not include emissions from internet transmission or electronic devices its members use to watch Netflix.
“Internet service providers and device manufacturers have operational control over the design and manufacturing of their equipment, so ideally account for those emissions themselves,” Stewart’s statement read.
She added that a study found “that one hour of streaming on Netflix in 2020 to be well under 100gCO2e, equivalent to driving a gas-powered passenger vehicle a quarter mile (or 400 metres).”
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In March last year, as the coronavirus lockdown began to bite, Netflix reduced the video quality of for its European subscribers. Netflix estimated that the move would reduce data consumption by around 25%.
The move came right as lockdown drove people to spend more time watching streaming services. A survey found that UK citizens doubled the amount of time they spent watching subscription-based services, such as Netflix or Amazon Prime Video.
In addition, Netflix’s subscriber total increased 30% over 2020, coming in at around 204 million.
The last few years have seen people becoming more aware of the environmental impact of digital technology. Perhaps nothing is more emblematic of this than Bitcoin, which is now consuming a similar amount of electricity as the entire country of Argentina.
All this comes at a carbon cost, estimated in one paper to be around 90 million tonnes of CO2, the equivalent of metropolitan London.
However, Bitcoin is not alone in this. The IT industry is estimated to produce around 1 billion tonnes of carbon emissions per year. At a time when the coronavirus has forced many people online, understanding the cost of digital processes is vital to reducing their environmental impact.