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I’ve already pointed out potential conflicts between a company’s use of AI and their emissions targets/goals. Last week, Financial Times tackled the issue, saying that the “surge in demand for electricity to feed data centres and to power an artificial intelligence revolution will usher in a golden era for natural gas” because “AI’s soaring energy needs will rise well beyond what renewable energy and batteries can deliver.” Companies are finding that AI growth

“… marks a contrast with pledges by Big Tech to slash greenhouse gas emissions and fuel the AI revolution with green energy, rather than fossil fuels… data centres’ voracious power needs are set to rocket, as cloud storage facilities, crypto mining and AI all add strain to grids. Microsoft alone is opening a new data centre globally every three days. These power hungry operations will together consume more than 480 terawatt hours of electricity, or almost a tenth of total US power demand, by 2035, up from 4.5 per cent in 2025, according to S&P Global Commodity Insights. The International Energy Agency estimates power demand from data centres globally could top 1,000 TWh by 2026 — double 2022 levels and an increase equivalent to Germany’s total power demand.”

However, Big Tech’s move to find, fund and use renewable energy sources “could pose a threat to fossil fuel producers’ rosy outlooks for their gas”. Nothing is certain, as the “speed of the revolution is breeding uncertainty in forecasts.”

What is certain is the more companies move to adopt AI, the more complex their Scope 2 emissions picture becomes. Corporate climate/sustainability staff need to be at the table for AI strategy conversations. Without that input, executives and boards won’t find out until after the fact that AI and Scope 2 reduction targets may not mix. I doubt they want to be surprised.

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The Editor

Lawrence Heim has been practicing in the field of ESG management for almost 40 years. He began his career as a legal assistant in the Environmental Practice of Vinson & Elkins working for a partner who is nationally recognized and an adjunct professor of environmental law at the University of Texas Law School. He moved into technical environmental consulting with ENSR Consulting & Engineering at the height of environmental regulatory development, working across a range of disciplines. He was one… View Profile