Tag Archives: Sustainability

11 startups addressing global problems—here’s how we’re helping


When we announced our Google for Startups Accelerator on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in November, we did not foresee how dramatically day-to-day life would soon change. The COVID-19 pandemic and its widespread health, social and economic consequences have made the goal of the program—to help founders build technology to  solve serious issues facing our world—even more pressing. 

We received almost 1,200 applications from across Europe, the Middle East and Africa and—together with an external jury—we carefully evaluated each of these ideas. Today, we’re announcing the 11 startups selected to participate in our inaugural Google for Startups Accelerator on the SDGs. These startups address a wide range of social and environmental challenges, and are working toward at least one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals outlined by the U.N. 

Apic.ai (Germany) uses honeybees as biosensors in the fight to protect biodiversity. 

Cervest.earth (UK) provides personalized insights on the impact of climatic and extreme events, predicting the risks and effects of climate volatility in real-time, for any location on the planet. 

Ellipsis.earth (UK) uses drone imagery and machine learning to identify and track plastic pollution, aiming to provide a global database of the types of plastic waste found in our oceans, beaches and rivers.

Everimpact (France) combines satellite imagery and ground sensing to monitor air quality and carbon emissions in cities.  

Flare (Kenya) offers software infrastructure and operational support for medical emergency response services in Sub-Saharan Africa.

mDoc (Nigeria) uses a digital platform and in-person hubs to support people living with chronic diseases. 

OKO (Israel) is crop insurance designed for emerging markets, using new technologies in satellite imagery and weather forecasting to simplify and automate claim management. 

Ororatech (Germany) is the first commercial supplier of infrared satellite data for early detection and real-time monitoring of wildfires across the globe. 

Skilllab (Netherlands) uses AI to empower job seekers, such as refugees, to integrate their skill sets into local labor markets.

Solar Freeze (Kenya) is pioneering mobile cold storage units powered by renewable energy for smallholder farmers, to help them reduce post-harvest loss in the developing world.

Wondertree (Pakistan) accelerates cognitive and motor development in children with special needs through movement-based therapeutic and educational AR games. 

Each startup founder will work closely with engineers from over 20 Google teams and other subject matter experts to address product, engineering, business development, and funding challenges. Since this accelerator is focused on sustainability, founders will learn these skills through the lens of the Sustainable Development Goals and relevant partners.

In order to keep the program safe and accessible in light of COVID-19, the first two on-site events will now be digital. Virtual training will cover topics such as creating Objectives and Key Results (OKRs), UX Research & Behavioral Economics, ML Data Pipelines and Data Visualization, SDG innovation for sustainable impact, and Strategies for Social Impact Fundraising. The five-month program kicks off on April 21st, and a second cohort will be selected later in the year.

Google for Startups was created to support those who want to build something better—and that’s exactly what we’ll continue to do, whether online or IRL. These are just a few of the many startups working locally on global solutions, and we’ll continue to bring Google’s resources to this entrepreneurial community.

Data centers are more energy efficient than ever

While Google is the world’s largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy, we’re also taking action on climate change by minimizing the amount of energy we need to use in the first place. For more than a decade, we’ve worked to make our data centers as energy efficient as possible. Today, a new paper in Science validated our efforts and those of other leaders in our industry. It found that efficiency improvements have kept energy usage almost flat across the globe’s data centers—even as demand for cloud computing has skyrocketed.

The new study shows that while the amount of computing done in data centers increased by about 550 percent between 2010 and 2018, the amount of energy consumed by data centers only grew by six percent during the same time period. The study’s authors note that these energy efficiency gains outpaced anything seen in other major sectors of the economy. As a result, while data centers now power more applications for more people than ever before, they still account for about 1 percent of global electricity consumption—the same proportion as in 2010. 

What's more, research has consistently shown that hyperscale (meaning very large) data centers are far more energy efficient than smaller, local servers. That means that a person or company can immediately reduce the energy consumption associated with their computing simply by switching to cloud-based software. As the data center industry continues to evolve its operations, this efficiency gap between local computing and cloud computing will continue to grow.

Searching for efficiency

How are data centers squeezing more work out of every electron, year after year? For Google, the answer comes down to a relentless quest to eliminate waste, at every level of our operations. We designed highly efficient Tensor Processing Units, (the AI chips behind our advances in machine learning), and outfitted all of our data centers with high-performance servers. Starting in 2014, we even began using machine learning to automatically optimize cooling in our data centers. At the same time, we’ve deployed smart temperature, lighting, and cooling controls to further reduce the energy used at our data centers. 

Our efforts have yielded promising results: Today, on average, a Google data center is twice as energy efficient as a typical enterprise data center. And compared with five years ago, we now deliver around seven times as much computing power with the same amount of electrical power. 

By directly controlling data center cooling, our AI-powered recommendation system is already delivering consistent energy savings of around 30 percent on average. And the average annual power usage effectiveness for our global fleet of data centers in 2019 hit a new record low of 1.10, compared with the industry average of 1.67—meaning that Google data centers use about six times less overhead energy for every unit of IT equipment energy.

Leading by example

So where do we go from here? We’ll continue to deploy new technologies and share the lessons we learn in the process, design the most efficient data centers possible, and disclose data on our progress. To learn about our efforts to power the internet using as little power as possible—and how we’re ensuring that the energy we use is carbon-free, around the clock—check out our latest Environment Report or visit our data center efficiency site.

AI’s killer (whale) app

The Salish Sea, which extends from British Columbia to Washington State in the U.S., was once home to hundreds of killer whales, also known as orcas. Now, the population of Southern Resident Killer Whales, a subgroup of orcas, is struggling to survive—there are only 73 of them left. Building on our work using AI for Social Good, we’re partnering with Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) to apply machine learning to protect killer whales in the Salish Sea.

According to DFO, which monitors and protects this endangered population of orcas, the greatest threats to the animals are scarcity of prey (particularly Chinook salmon, their favorite meal), contaminants, and disturbance caused by human activity and passing vessels. Teaming up with DFO and Rainforest Connection, we used deep neural networks to track, monitor and observe the orcas’ behavior in the Salish Sea, and send alerts to Canadian authorities. With this information, marine mammal managers can monitor and treat whales that are injured, sick or distressed. In case of an oil spill, the detection system can allow experts to locate the animals and use specialized equipment to alter the direction of travel of the orcas to prevent exposure.

To teach a machine learning model to recognize orca sounds, DFO provided 1,800 hours of underwater audio and 68,000 labels that identified the origin of the sound. The model is used to analyze live sounds that DFO monitors across 12 locations within the Southern Resident Killer Whales’ habitat. When the model hears a noise that indicates the presence of a killer whale, it’s displayed on the Rainforest Connection (a grantee of the Google AI Impact Challenge) web interface, and live alerts on their location are provided to DFO and key partners through an app that Rainforest Connection developed.

Our next steps on this project include distinguishing between the three sub-populations of orcas—Southern Resident Killer Whales, Northern Resident Killer Whales and Biggs Killer Whales—so that we can better monitor their health and protect them in real time. We hope that advances in bioacoustics technology using AI can make a difference in animal conservation.

Using AI to find where the wild things are

According to the World Wildlife Fund, vertebrate populations have shrunk an average of 60 percent since the 1970s. And a recent UN global assessment found that we’re at risk of losing one million species to extinction, many of which may become extinct within the next decade. 

To better protect wildlife, seven organizations, led by Conservation International, and Google have mapped more than 4.5 million animals in the wild using photos taken from motion-activated cameras known as camera traps. The photos are all part of Wildlife Insights, an AI-enabled, Google Cloud-based platform that streamlines conservation monitoring by speeding up camera trap photo analysis.

With photos and aggregated data available for the world to see, people can change the way protected areas are managed, empower local communities in conservation, and bring the best data closer to conservationists and decision makers.

Wildlife managers at Instituto Humboldt take advantage of a new AI-enabled tool for processing wildlife data.

Wildlife managers at Instituto Humboldt take advantage of a new AI-enabled tool for processing wildlife data

Ferreting out insights from mountains of data

Camera traps help researchers assess the health of wildlife species, especially those that are reclusive and rare. Worldwide, biologists and land managers place motion-triggered cameras in forests and wilderness areas to monitor species, snapping millions of photos a year. 


But what do you do when you have millions of wildlife selfies to sort through? On top of that, how do you quickly process photos where animals are difficult to find, like when an animal is in the dark or hiding behind a bush? And how do you quickly sort through up to 80 percent of photos that have no wildlife at all because the camera trap was triggered by the elements, like grass blowing in the wind?


Processing all these photos isn’t only time consuming and painstaking. For decades, one of the biggest challenges has been simply collecting them. Today, millions of camera trap photos languish on the hard drives and discs of individuals and organizations worldwide.


Illuminating the natural world with AI

With Wildlife Insights, conservation scientists with camera trap photos can now upload their images to Google Cloud and run Google’s species identification AI models over the images, collaborate with others, visualize wildlife on a map and develop insights on species population health.


It’s the largest and most diverse public camera-trap database in the world that allows people to explore millions of camera-trap images, and filter images by species, country and year.


Wildlife Insights

Seven leading conservation organizations and Google released Wildlife Insights to better protect wildlife.

On average, human experts can label 300 to 1,000 images per hour. With the help of Google AI Platform Predictions, Wildlife Insights can classify the same images up to 3,000 times faster, analyzing 3.6 million photos an hour. To make this possible, we trained an AI model to automatically classify species in an image using Google’s open source TensorFlow framework. 

Even though species identification can be a challenging task for AI, across the 614 species that Google’s AI models have been trained on, species like jaguars, white-lipped peccaries and African elephants have between an 80 to 98.6 percent probability of being correctly predicted. Most importantly, images detected to contain no animals with a very high confidence are removed automatically, freeing biologists to do science instead of looking at empty images of blowing grass. 

With this data, managers of protected areas or anti-poaching programs can gauge the health of specific species, and local governments can use data to inform policies and create conservation measures. 

Wildlife Insights Animal Classifier

The Wildlife Insights Animal Classifier tool helps researchers classify 614 species.

Acting before it’s too late

Thanks to the combination of advanced technology, data sharing, partnerships and science-based analytics, we have a chance to bend the curve of species decline.

While we’re just at the beginning of applying AI to better understand wildlife from sensors in the field, solutions like Wildlife Insights can help us protect our planet so that future generations can live in a world teeming with wildlife. 

Learn more about Wildlife Insights and watch the documentary film Eyes in the Forest: Saving Wildlife In Colombia Using Camera Traps and AI. The film tells the story of a camera trapper who uses Wildlife Insights to document and preserve the biological diversity in Caño Cristales, a reserve in Colombia’s remote upper Amazon region. 

Wildlife Insights is a collaboration between Conservation International, Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Map of Life, World Wide Fund for Nature, Wildlife Conservation Society, Zoological Society of London, Google Earth Outreach,  built by Vizzuality, and supported by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and Lyda Hill Philanthropies. 

How we power climate insights and action

This week, governments and NGOs from across the globe are convening at COP25, the United Nations climate conference in Madrid, to discuss the latest efforts to fight climate change. Addressing this pressing issue on a global scale requires urgent action from countries, communities and businesses. At COP25 we shared how Google is focused on building sustainability into everything that we do and making it possible for everyone to build a more sustainable world.

As cities now account for more than 70 percent of global emissions, we believe that empowering city governments with comprehensive, climate-relevant data and technology can play a critical role in igniting action. 

One way we are doing this is with partners like the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy. We’ve brought our online tool, the Environmental Insights Explorer (EIE),to cities across the world, providing high-resolution data to measure greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and take informed action to reduce CO2 emissions.  As of today, EIE has now expanded to more than 100 cities worldwide.

Environmental Insights Explorer: Now available in 100+ cities worldwide

Empowering local action in cities worldwide

As we look beyond our latest efforts to equip cities with more comprehensive data, we’re also exploring how we can help communities turn these insights into action at the local level.

To further accelerate climate action, Google.org is launching a new $4 million fund in collaboration with ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability.Grants from the fund will support nonprofits and academic institutions in Europe and Latin America that are leading data-driven climate action efforts.

The first grantee is Iniciativa Climática de México (ICM), a Mexico-based nonprofit organization that catalyzes international climate policy at the national and city levels to reduce emissions of GHGs and promotes low carbon growth in Mexico. Grant funds will be allocated to their “Hogar Solar” program. This program channels government spending on electricity towards the installation of solar panels to help increase access to power for those facing energy poverty, provide cleaner energy sources and reduce overall electricity costs. 

Data-driven initiatives like this are essential to addressing climate change and are needed at a global scale. As we fund more grantees, we will share what we learn on how to best engage in data-backed sustainability planning and action.


Translating global insights

EIE relies on anonymous, highly aggregated mapping data and standard GHG emission factors to estimate city building and transportation carbon emissions, as well as solar energy potential. We’re already seeing the early impacts of cities putting the power of EIE data behind climate plans, from bike-friendly initiatives to solar programs.

While EIE has officially published data for 100 cities, the EIE team has processed climate-relevant data across an initial sample of 3,000 cities to produce emission insights from approximately 95 million buildings and nearly 3 trillion kilometers traveled. 

Our analysis found that cities can have a huge impact in protecting our climate:

Making environmental information available will continue to be critical as cities, communities and companies worldwide band together to address climate change. We’re committed to doing our part, and want to extend our thanks to the forward-looking city officials and climate leaders collaborating with us on this project.

If you’d like to request EIE data for your city, let us know. And learn more about Google’s other sustainable efforts at sustainability.google.

Source: Google LatLong


Uniting to address plastic waste and pollution

Plastic is everywhere. Nearly 400 million tons of plastic are produced each year and the majority of it ends up in landfills and incinerators, or by leaking into the environment. Each of us ingests 5 grams of microplastic each week, the equivalent of a credit card worth of plastic. Without comprehensive and large-scale interventions, we can expect that there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050. 


Ending plastic waste requires rethinking the way we design, produce, package, deliver, use, recycle and dispose of all consumer products. The first step is to move past the single-use disposable products and switch to more reusable and recyclable solutions. However, we also need to build better collection and recycling infrastructure to handle the volume of materials used in products today. Ultimately, we need a future where all materials and molecules can be repurposed and reused, just like in nature.


A circular economy is a system that eliminates waste and pollution. For us, that means maximizing the reuse of resources across our operations, products and supply chains, and enabling others to do the same. Today, we’re announcing that Google is a technology partner to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Initiative, which unites more than 400 businesses, governments and other organizations behind a common vision to address plastic waste and pollution. As a partner, we’ll support these organizations in the goal of ending plastic waste through packaging redesign and new delivery models. 


Here’s more information about our efforts to develop new tools, sponsor research and support the market for recycled plastics:

  • We recently partnered with Earth 911 to bring better recycling information to the Google Assistant in North America. This will help people make better, more informed decisions about what to recycle based on their location. 

  • 100 percent of the Nest products launching in 2019 are built with recycled plastics in an effort to keep materials in use longer and support recycling markets. By 2022, all Made by Google products will include recycled materials and we will maximize recycled content wherever possible.

  • To encourage other companies to adopt new recycling technologies, we worked with Closed Loop Partners on their report that includes guidance and information on how companies can better support the recycling of plastics.


A circular economy for plastics requires both creativity and concerted action. A systemic shift to a circular economy goes far beyond Google, but we’re committed to doing our part in our operations, products, supply chains, and enabling others to do the same across the world. 


It should be the goal of every business to protect our planet

Today, at the start of the 25th annualUnited Nations Climate Change Conference, Google is joining 70 other companies and union leaders to call for the United States to stay in the Paris Agreement. We’re also sharing what Google is doing as a global innovator in renewable energy markets, and to build responsible supply chains and products that use AI to drive sustainability. 

We firmly believe that every business has the opportunity and obligation to protect our planet. To that end, we’re focused on building sustainability into everything that we do—from designing efficient data centers to creating sustainable workplaces to manufacturing better devices and creating more efficient supply chains. But our goal is much bigger: to enable everyone—businesses, policy makers and consumers—to create and live in a more sustainable world. 

Catalyzing the market for renewable energy

Google has been a carbon-neutral company since 2007 and we’ve matched our entire annual electricity consumption with renewable energy since 2017. Purchasing at Google’s scale helps grow the market for renewable energy, makes it easier for other corporate buyers to follow suit and supports a future where everyone has access to 24x7 carbon-free energy.  

  • Following Sundar’s September announcement of our biggest renewable energy purchase to date, we now have a portfolio of 52 wind and solar projects totaling more than 5 gigawatts, driving some $7 billion in expected new investments and thousands of related jobs around the world. Once these projects come online, they will produce more electricity than cities the size of Washington, D.C. or countries such as Lithuania or Uruguay use each year—all with renewable energy. 

  • We insist that all projects add new renewable energy sources to the grid—which catalyzes new  wind and solar projects. This approach also drives economic growth in the regions where we operate. For example, in Europe alone, Google’s purchases of renewable energy have generated €2.3 billion in capital investment in new renewable projects.

  • Google’s renewable energy purchases have helped make significant progress towards our long-term aspiration to power our operations with carbon-free energy in all places, at all times. Reaching 24x7 carbon-free energy will require innovations across policy, technology and business models and we are working hard to advance progress in these areas. For example, we recently signed a hybrid solar-wind agreement in Chile, which will increase our hourly carbon-free energy match from 75 percent to more than 95 percent.

  • As a founding member of the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA), we are leading an effort to bring together more than 300 renewable energy buyers, developers, and service providers to pave the way for any company to access and purchase renewable energy. Collectively this group has committed to purchasing 60 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2025; that’s more than six times the amount of solar and wind installed in the U.S. in 2018. 

  • We’re also partnering with businesses to drive policy change to create broad access to renewable energy purchasing for everyone. For example, in the state of Georgia, we worked with Walmart, Target and Johnson & Johnson to establish the first corporate renewable energy purchasing program with Georgia Power, the local utility.

Building responsible supply chains and products

In areas where we manufacture hardware products, we view it as our responsibility to make sure our suppliers and the surrounding communities have access to clean energy. We’re also committed to integrating sustainability into every step of our hardware process, from design to manufacturing to shipping: 

  • In October, we committed to invest approximately $150 million into renewable energy projects in key regions where our Made by Google products are manufactured. Our investment commitment, alongside partners, aims to catalyze roughly $1.5 billion of capital into renewable energy. With these investments, we expect to help generate renewable energy that is equivalent to the amount of electricity used to manufacture Google consumer hardware products. 

  • One-hundred percent of this year’s Nest products include recycled content plastic. 

  • One-hundred percent of all shipments to and from customers of Made by Google products are carbon neutral. 

  • On an individual level, our products and services help consumers reduce their own environmental impact on the planet. For example, the Nest Learning Thermostats have helped people save more than 41 billion kilowatt hours of energy—enough to power all of Estonia's electricity needs for six years.

  • We’re also making it easier for people to give their old devices a second life. Customers can responsibly recycle devices for free—whether made by Google or not—via our take-back program for all products, available in 16 countries, and via our U.S. Pixel trade-in program.

Using AI to build a more sustainable world

Google’s expertise in AI is a key part of how we think about sustainability. Here are just a few of the ways AI is helping to tackle some of the world’s most challenging environmental problems:

  • We built an AI-powered efficiency recommendation system that directly controls data center cooling. This first-of-its-kind cloud-based system is delivering energy savings of roughly 30 percent. We’re now working to give our Cloud customers access to this same technology.

  • We’re using AI to optimize wind farms in our global fleet of renewable energy projects. After DeepMind and Google started applying machine learning algorithms to 700 megawatts of wind power in the central U.S., the value of that wind energy has been boosted by roughly 20 percent.

  • AI powers Global Fishing Watch, a platform we launched in partnership with Oceana and SkyTruth that promotes ocean sustainability by visualizing, tracking and sharing data about global fishing activity in near real-time and for free.

  • We’re also working to reduce the impact of our changing climate on vulnerable people. It’s estimated that every year, 250 million people around the world are affected by flooding. Our flood forecasting initiative in the Patna region of India is aimed at providing accurate real-time flood forecasting information and alerts to those in affected regions.

Providing resources to accelerate action beyond Google

Many organizations doing the most important work to address environmental challenges lack the funding and internal expertise to achieve their goals. That’s why we’re committed to empowering businesses, nonprofits, researchers and policy makers to take action:

  • Our first-ever Google AI Impact Challenge awarded $25 million in Google.org funding, product credits and mentorship from Google experts. Winners include organizations that are driving critical work in climate, conservation and energy. For example, WattTime is working to replace expensive, on-site power plant emissions monitors with a globally accessible, open-source monitoring platform. This will help make critical emissions reduction initiatives more accessible to communities that might not otherwise be able to afford them. 

  • The Google for Startups Accelerator will support social impact startups addressing climate, poverty and inequality. It gives startups access to expertise on technology, monetization of a social impact business and capital. 

  • More than 70 percent of global emissions are generated by cities. Our Environmental Insights Explorer (EIE) makes it easier for cities to access and act upon new climate-relevant datasets. 

Climate change is one of the most significant global challenges of our time and Google is committed to doing its part. We’re aggressively building sustainability into our operations and supply chains—efforts that are detailed in our annual Environmental Report andResponsible Supply Chain Report. We’ll continue to lead and encourage others to join us in improving the health of our planet. 

Supporting social impact startups

Around the world, there are more startups addressing the world’s most pressing social challenges. There’s Asaduru, a South Africa-based green building business; Skilllab BV in the Netherlands, which helps refugees better integrate into labor markets; and Limbic in the UK, which uses AI to better understand mental health data.

Technology can help address some of the world’s biggest challenges, from empowering others to use AI to address social challenges, to setting ambitious and long-term environmental sustainability goals. When businesses and investors work together with government, nonprofits, communities and individuals, we can make real progress.

Today we’re launching the Google for Startups Accelerator focused on sustainable development goals. Geared toward social impact startups working to create a healthier and more sustainable future, the accelerator provides access to training, products and technical support. Startup founders will work with Google engineers and receive mentoring from over 20 teams at Google, as well as outside experts and local mentors. 

Startups will be selected based on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals including poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice. Applications will open for startups from across Europe, the Middle East and Africa in the next few weeks and eight to ten startups will take part in a six-month accelerator program in early 2020. A second cohort will be selected later in the year. 

The program is designed to address the unique challenges founders face when building a social impact company: 

Product and engineering expertise

People with social impact expertise don’t always have experience building tech products. So our program seeks to bring startups together with the best technology products, data and people to help them build expertise. 

Business development

Monetization for social impact startups is complex and can involve multiple parties: The people who pay for it may not be the people who use it, or the people who benefit from it. Our accelerator will help founders connect with the audiences they need to, such as potential users, investors and advertisers. 

Access to funding

While investors are increasingly seeing the value in social impact startups, there are unique challenges in attracting the right investors, and competing with traditional startups who are focused primarily on growth or acquisition. This accelerator will help participants connect and work with a wider base of potential investors.   

The new accelerator is part of Google for Startups which help startups build and scale great products by matching them with the best of Google—our people, network and advanced technologies. 

Made by Google, manufactured with clean energy

It's not just about what products we build, but how we build them. When designing Google hardware, like the Nest Mini or Wifi, we’re always thinking about how to create products that leave people, the planet and our communities better than we found them. 

Earlier this year we shared our initial sustainability commitments for Google hardware which demonstrate how we’re thinking about sustainability every step of the way--from design to manufacturing to shipping to reuse.

We’ve made even more progress toward these commitments. One hundred percent of the Nest products launching in 2019 are built with recycled plastics. Shipping those products, along with all other Made by Google products, from us to you, is now 100 percent carbon neutral. 

But we want to work toward a world where everyone has access to renewable energy, including our suppliers and their communities. 


As a part of this, we’ve committed to invest approximately $150 million into renewable energy projects in key manufacturing regions. Our investment commitment, alongside partners, aims to catalyze roughly $1.5 billion of capital into renewable energy. With these investments, we expect to help generate renewable energy that is equivalent to the amount of electricity used to manufacture our Google consumer hardware products. So when you buy these products, you know you’re contributing to bringing new renewable energy to manufacturing communities.

A commitment to advancing access to clean energy has long been a cornerstone of Google’s overall sustainability efforts. In September, we made the biggest corporate purchase of renewable energy in history. This purchase includes 1,600-megawatt (MW) of wind and solar and 18 new energy deals. Together, these deals will increase our worldwide portfolio of renewable agreements by more than 40 percent, reaching 5,500 MW—which is equivalent to the capacity of a million solar rooftops. 

The goal is to continue to integrate sustainability into our products, operations and communities, and push ourselves to do more, faster. We encourage others to join us in this pursuit.


Fighting climate change with new data

This week, leaders from cities and environmental organizations—as well as representatives from Google—are gathering at the C40 World Mayors Summit in Copenhagen to raise awareness around new data sources and methodologies that play a critical role in reaching a zero-carbon future.

More than 10,000 cities around the world have committed to taking action on climate change over the next decade. But without the right data, it can be hard to know where to start. Our Environmental Insights Explorer (EIE) is a free online tool that makes it easier for cities to measure, plan and reduce overall carbon emissions and pollution across their cities. Designed in collaboration with the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy (GCoM), EIE analyzes Google’s comprehensive global mapping data to estimate building and transportation carbon emissions and renewable energy potential. This data can then help build policies, guide solutions and measure progress.

Today EIE will be available for the first time in Europe, starting with Dublin, Birmingham, and the greater metropolitan area of Manchester, with Wolverhampton and Coventry to follow soon. We’re also making available new hyperlocal, street-level air quality data, starting in Copenhagen. This is part of a new section called EIE Labs, which will pilot climate-focused datasets as a critical indicator for prioritizing and tracking climate action.

In Dublin, city leaders have already been testing the tool, and are using EIE insights to inform smart transit programs with the goal of reducing emissions and increasing the use of cleaner modes of travel. Owen Keegan, Chief Executive, Dublin City Council, says, “Now we can bring Environmental Insights Explorer data analytics to conversations about transportation greenhouse gas emissions and show people the impact of supporting such programs to help start reducing emissions for our entire city which can help inform the debate." 

Dublin EIE Data Transportation Emissions.png

Dublin EIE data showing autos as the largest contributing source of CHG transportation emissions.

We’re creating Copenhagen’s new air quality map in partnership with the City of Copenhagen and scientists at Utrecht University, bringing in data from Project Air View, which equips Google Street View vehicles with scientific instruments to measure air quality at street level. The preliminary map shows the block-by-block concentration of black carbon and ultrafine particle pollution, which Copenhagen is already using to work with architects and designers to rethink the city for the future.

“Measuring ultrafine particles and black carbon at street level are important steps for the City of Copenhagen to understand how we can prioritise actions to secure a clean and healthy city for our citizens. This new data displays the dynamic levels of ultrafine particles and black carbon with a strong overall relation to traffic patterns, but also hotspots like the narrow streets in our old city centre,” says Rasmus Reeh, senior developer at the Copenhagen Solutions Lab, City of Copenhagen.

AirView-CPH_UFP.png

Copenhagen’s hyperlocal air quality maps are being used to redesign parts of the city to be healthier and more sustainable.

We’re staying focused on hyperlocal air quality, enabling 50 more Street View cars to capture air quality measurements on roads around the globe. We hope these insights will inspire cities to transform their own transport vehicle fleets into environmental sensing platforms—the Environmental Defense Fund’s Clean Air Guide provides some tips on getting started—and contribute to the Air Quality Data Commons platform, which supports new insights, deeper research and more effective climate action.

We are encouraged by the positive response of cities and city partners, including GCOM, whose Executive Director, Amanda Eichel, says “we believe EIE can serve as a critical first step for city sustainability teams to better assess their current situation and more efficiently track and monitor their progress in meeting their climate protection goals.”

We’re already working hard to bringing EIE to many more cities around the world, and we’re excited about helping more mayors create a healthier, cleaner future for their citizens and for the planet. If you’d like to nominate your city as the next candidate for EIE, let us know.