Story at a glance

  • Ride-sharing company Uber announced it would implement and expand programs to cut carbon emissions from its rides.
  • Green options are already available in England and France.

One of the earliest phenomenons resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic was the recorded drop in carbon emissions that came with the mass stay-at-home orders from the reduction of traffic on roads, yielding better air quality.

Uber Technologies Inc., a pillar in the ride sharing industry, announced new goals to help keep air pollution at bay.

In a press release, the Silicon Valley darling aims to become a zero-emission car service by 2040. This means that 100 percent of the rides booked via the Uber app will use zero-emission vehicles, public transportation or micromobility options, such as bikes or scooters.

“Instead of going back to business as usual, Uber is taking this moment as an opportunity to reduce our environmental impact,” the announcement read. “It’s our responsibility as the largest mobility platform in the world to more aggressively tackle the challenge of climate change. We want to do our part to build back better and drive a green recovery in our cities.”

While the announcement included statistics about the decline in carbon emissions due to the pandemic, the company has not disclosed its own carbon footprint. 

Before this milestone can be reached, Uber aims to have every vehicle in its ride sharing fleet be an electric vehicle by 2030 to further reduce the amount of emissions into the atmosphere. This change is intended to affect the company’s ride-sharing operations in the U.S., Canada and Europe. 

The company offered four actions it will undertake to reduce its emissions, including expanding its Uber Green offering, in which riders can opt for a hybrid or electric vehicle, investing $800 million to help its contracted drivers switch to electric vehicles and increasing the company's transparency.

Uber Green will cost $1 extra so riders can request a more sustainable car in which to ride. The company states that these trips will produce about 44 percent fewer emissions than standard counterparts.

By the end of 2020, Uber Green is expected to be available in 65 cities worldwide.

In terms of switching its drivers to hybrid vehicles, the company only said that it will help drivers switch “through various market-based solutions” such as the $1 rider surcharge.

The new climate goals come as part of a new partnership Uber entered with organizations including the World Resources Institute, as well as Transport & Environment. 

To enable better accountability in environmental impact reporting, Uber intends to publish its first Climate Assessment and Performance Report, which claims that while the total carbon emissions from Uber’s operations are unknown, the company has managed to cut 6.1 percent carbon intensity from its rides in 2019 as opposed to 2017 data.

Speaking to Bloomberg, an Uber spokesperson said that the company will not use carbon offsets to lower emissions from its rides, as offset promissory notes do not always equate to actual greenhouse gas emissions removed from the environment. Instead, Uber intends to cut all emissions from its operations — both ride-sharing and corporate — in the next decade. Those emissions that can’t be cut from corporate activities, such as taking flights, will be offset.

Lyft, Uber’s primary ride-sharing rival, made a similar announcement in September 2018, when it pledged full carbon neutrality and 100 percent renewable energy, with the increase in shared rides being a key component in this goal. 

While its initial goal was 50 percent shared rides accounting for the total number of booked rides by 2020, this initiative could be upended by the coronavirus pandemic, which advocates mass social distancing. 

Due to COVID-19 and its aftershocks, both Uber and Lyft were among the companies to lay off thousands of employees as fewer people booked shared rides in a bid to reduce coronavirus transmission. 

Published on Sep 09, 2020