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Uber has announced several new commitments, initiatives, and product expansions designed to address climate change.
In a virtual press event this morning, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi cited the positive impact that the global lockdown has had on the environment, with “blue skies replacing smog above city skylines” and many cities using the pandemic to “rethink their infrastructure.” However, with pollution rising again as normal routines resume, Khosrowshahi said that rather than “going back to business as usual,” it’s making moves to reduce its environmental impact.
“COVID-19 didn’t change the fact that climate change remains an existential threat and crisis that needs every person, every business in every nation to act,” Khosrowshahi said.
First up, Uber said that it intends to be an entirely zero-emission platform by 2040, with 100% of all rides booked through its app — be that cars, public transit, or scooters — taking place on zero-emission vehicles. Before that, though, the company is setting a goal of 2030 for all cars on its platform to transition to electric in the U.S., Canada, and Europe, as well as hitting net-zero emissions on the corporate side of its business during the same time frame.
This actually builds on existing programs that are already underway in key Uber markets, including London, where the company has previously outlined plans to transition to all-electric vehicles (EVs) by 2025. Indeed, as part of today’s announcement, Uber said that it has earmarked $800 million in resources to help “hundreds of thousands” more drivers across North America and Europe to switch to EVs by 2025, which will involve working with governments and third parties, including EV makers, to make such vehicles more accessible to drivers.
Alongside the future-gazing news, Uber also announced more near-term green initiatives. The company revealed that it’s expanding its Uber Green service to more than fifteen cities across the U.S. and Canada, including Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Vancouver, and Toronto. Uber Green, which has previously been available in other markets including China — when Uber still operated there — and nearly 40 cities in Europe, allows users to pay a $1 premium to request an electric or hybrid vehicle. According to Khosrowshahi, such trips produce up to 44% fewer carbon emissions than petrol or diesel cars.
This premium will in part go toward encouraging drivers to switch to cleaner vehicles. Indeed, in the U.S. and Canada hybrid vehicle drivers will receive an extra $0.50 for every Uber Green trip completed, while those running a purely electric vehicle will receive an extra $1.50.
Additionally, Uber said it will incentivize riders to choose Uber Green by giving them three reward points for every electric or hybrid vehicle trip that they take, compared to the usual two points. By the end of 2020, Khosrowshahi said that Uber Green will be available in more than 65 cities globally.
Other technology companies have also made proud proclamations to counter climate change — Apple recently stated that it would be 100% carbon neutral across its supply chain and products by 2030, while Microsoft launched a $1 billion “climate innovation fund” and committed to becoming carbon negative by 2030. So for a company such as Uber, whose core product has such a direct and correlatable impact on the environment through the millions of cars on its platform, the need to embrace a greener mantra is particularly crucial.
Alongside its financial pledges and Uber Green expansion, the San Francisco-based company also outlined its continued investment in micromobility, having recently led a $170 million investment in electric scooter and bike company Lime, a transaction that also promised deeper integrations between the two respective platforms. And while carpooling is widely regarded as one of the more effective ways to reduce the amount of cars on roads, the global pandemic has meant that Uber had to suspend shared rides back in March to reduce the spread of COVID-19 — however, the company said that it was “monitoring the situation” closely and planned to reopen the service as soon as it’s safe to do so.
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