Ripple CTO discusses role challenges and carbon neutrality goal

Financial blockchain company Ripple recently revealed its aim to reach carbon neutrality by 2030, by focusing on renewable energy, funding carbon removal technology, and expanding partnerships with conservation bodies. Following this announcement, Ripple CTO David Schwartz expanded on the organisation’s sustainability initiatives, as well as the challenges that the Covid-19 pandemic has posed to his role.

David Schwartz, CTO of Ripple

As CTO of Ripple, what have been the biggest challenges that the pandemic has posed to your role, and how have you overcome them?

As a global company, Ripple was well-prepared for the changes to work life brought about by Covid-19. However, businesses and people still need to move money around the world.

In addition to Covid-19, the crisis in remittance payments is further exacerbated by the lack of an effective payments infrastructure in some of the countries most affected, making the role of digital payments more important than ever. Many of our customers need RippleNet, specifically ODL, to alleviate some of the stress caused by pre-funding.

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It’s more important than ever that we are able to support our customers – and their customers who are relying on being able to send money — to minimise the negative impact of the pandemic and lower the cost of remittance payments where possible.

What measures is Ripple putting in place to lower the impact of blockchain on the environment?

As we innovate in this space and digital payment adoption increases, we need to make long-term, systemic shifts in the industry to ensure innovation doesn’t come at the cost of our planet. Blockchain and crypto will play a key role in the future of finance, but current cryptocurrency mining methods consume excessively large amounts of energy.

Crypto players holding themselves accountable and ultimately being more transparent in their energy consumption needs to start today, which is why Ripple is committing to achieve carbon net-zero by 2030. With this pledge, we’re leading the charge by introducing new measures to help drive the sustainability agenda forward in the blockchain space.

In partnership with Energy Web Foundation, we have co-created EW Zero, a new, open-source tool that will enable any blockchain to decarbonise through the purchase of renewable energy in local markets worldwide. Any blockchain developer can access and leverage EW Zero, and the XRP Ledger Foundation — in partnership with Ripple — will be the first to use the tool to ensure offsets are purchased for consumption on the XRP Ledger.

Lastly, we’ve created a carbon emissions calculator to provide guidance to help crypto enthusiasts and our customers alike reduce their footprints and educate users how currencies stack up against each other in terms of sustainability.

How useful have partnerships with conservation organisations and institutions like REBA and the Rocky Mountain Institute been in your sustainability strategy?

We’re partnering with leading technology and conservation organisations like REBA and Rocky Mountain Institute to ensure all blockchains can become carbon neutral — starting with the XRP Ledger.

We can’t tackle this problem alone, so these partnerships with the clean industry and global finance decision-makers are crucial to drive the agenda forward and deliver real solutions that help to shape our green digital future.

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How can crypto companies lessen their energy consumption and environmental impact?

Cryptocurrencies, and their underlying blockchain technology, are helping solve previously unsolvable problems for industries around the world and drive the mainstream adoption of digital payments. However, depending on the specific cryptocurrency, the energy consumption required to maintain and transfer it varies wildly.

When it comes to excessive energy consumption, cryptocurrencies running on proof-of-work networks, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, are the culprits. These networks concentrate mining power among users who have the most advanced hardware and the cheapest energy sources to deploy, so there’s no incentive to take responsibility for their carbon footprints. On the other hand, there are greener options available such as the XRP Ledger, which uses a low-latency consensus protocol. By design, the XRP Ledger was built to be a more environmentally friendly and inexpensive mechanism for verifying transactions than proof-of-work networks.

To fuel our greener digital future, companies can partner with nonprofit and environmental organisations, such as Energy Web Foundation, to help implement more sustainable practices and enable any blockchain to decarbonise through the purchase of renewable energy in local markets worldwide.

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Aaron Hurst

Aaron Hurst is Information Age's senior reporter, providing news and features around the hottest trends across the tech industry.