Staff Sign Open Letter To Google Over Climate Change

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Google staff pen open letter asking for a climate action plan including zero emissions by 2030 target

Staff at Google have penned an open letter to senior management at Google, calling on the search engine giant to take action over the “global climate crisis.”

The letter from 1,137 Google staff, comes “in accordance with the gravity and urgency of the global climate crisis and its disproportionate harm to marginalized people.”

They call on Google to commit to and release a company-wide climate plan that should include a number of environmental commitments.

Open letter

The first demand from Google staff is zero emissions by 2030; the second demand is zero contracts to enable or accelerate the extraction of fossil fuels.

Thirdly the staff are seeking zero funding for climate-denying or -delaying think tanks, lobbyists, and politicians; and fourthly zero collaboration with entities enabling the incarceration, surveillance, displacement, or oppression of refugees or frontline communities.

The letter is addressed to Google CFO Ruth Porat, and comes after workers at other tech firms including Microsoft and Amazon, asked for similar commitments.

The letter was posted on Medium by a group called Google Workers For Action on Climate.

According to CNN, Google declined to comment on the letter, but pointed to a recent blog post by Ruth Porat, in which she detailed Google’s sustainability drive.

Porat reportedly has the “highest level of direct responsibility for climate change” with “visibility across all of the company’s operations.”

“We are focused on sustainability across all of our products and services. We’ve been a carbon-neutral company since 2007, and our work to support renewable energy remains a huge focus for us,” Porat wrote in September.

She then detailed how the company has been carbon-neutral since 2007 and recently made the largest corporate renewable energy purchase.

However, according to Google’s 2019 Environmental Report, it put 1.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, or greenhouse gas emissions, into the environment last year, which it covers with offset programs.

Worker concern

Reports of worker disquiet at Google continue to surface of late.

Last week for example Google’s management were accused of developing an internal surveillance tool that allegedly will be used to monitor attempts by staff to organise protests and discuss worker rights.

On 21 October, several dozen workers at Google’s office in Zurich reportedly held an event about workers’ rights and unionisation, despite their managers’ attempts to cancel it.

In September contract workers for Google in Pittsburgh voted to join the United Steelworkers union.

In April staff activists at Google reportedly held a “town hall” meeting, in which they alleged that Google regularly retaliates against employees who speak out.

But the biggest bone of contention in the past 18 months has been caused by sexual harassment concerns.

In November 2018, 20,000 Google staff around the world staged a mass walkout to protest at the lenient treatment and payouts for executives accused of sexual harassment.

Two of the organisers of that November global walkout, Meredith Whittaker and Claire Stapleton, had circulated a letter internally to other Google staffers, alleging they were being punished for their activism.

More publicity came when the New York Times published an article in 2018 that alleged that Google had protected three senior executives from allegations of sexual misconduct, which allegedly included the father of Android Andy Rubin.

Rubin stepped down from his position as Android boss in 2013, and eventually left Google altogether in October 2014.

Rubin however has denied the sexual misconduct allegations and has said that the New York Times story contained ‘numerous inaccuracies,’ and wild exaggerations about his compensation.

But matters were not helped in March this year, when court documents revealed a very senior Google executive had been paid a huge amount of money as part of a controversial severance package.

Amit Singhal was reportedly paid as much as $45m according to some media reports, after he was allegedly forced to resign from the search engine giant, after a sexual assault investigation.

Google staff have also protested against a number of Google projects, including a censored search engine in China (Project Dragonfly) and a contract with the Pentagon to analyse drone footage (Project Maven).

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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