Microsoft has announced one of the most ambitious corporate environmental programmes to date with a vision for ‘negative’ emissions that will ultimately remove all the carbon it has ever emitted.
The plan, if achieved, will see Microsoft remove more carbon from the environment than it emits in just ten years, and by 2050 remove all the carbon it has ever emitted directly or by electricity consumption since the company was founded in 1975.
‘Neutral is not enough’
Announcing the move on 16 January, Microsoft President Brad Smith said: “While the world will need to reach net zero, those of us who can afford to move faster and go further should do so. That’s why today we are announcing an ambitious goal and a new plan to reduce and ultimately remove Microsoft’s carbon footprint.”
"While we at Microsoft have worked hard to be “carbon neutral” since 2012, our recent work has led us to conclude that this is an area where we’re far better served by humility than pride. And we believe this is true not only for ourselves, but for every business and organisation on the planet. Like most carbon neutral companies, Microsoft has achieved carbon neutrality primarily by investing in offsets that primarily avoid emissions instead of removing carbon that has already been emitted. That’s why we’re shifting our focus. In short, neutral is not enough to address the world’s needs.”
The company hopes to achieve the goal through a number of measures. Firstly, it will shift to a 100 per cent renewable energy supply for all data centres, buildings and campuses by 2025, and electricity its entire global vehicle fleet by 2030.
Secondly, the company will expand and increase its ‘internal carbon fee’ - a charge paid by each division in the business based on its carbon emissions (currently $15 per tonne), the funds of which are used to pay for sustainability improvements.
Entire supply chain approach
Crucially, and unlike commitments from other major companies, the carbon negative goal goes beyond Microsoft’s own direct impact to also include so-called ‘scope 3’ emissions - the indirect emissions that come from its entire supply chain.
An initiative will be launched to help suppliers and customers reduce their own carbon footprint, and from the beginning of 2021 carbon reduction will be made an explicit aspect of Microsoft’s procurement processes. The internal carbon fee will also be rolled out to the supply chain.
‘It won’t be easy’
In addition, a $1 billion ‘climate innovation fund’ will be established to accelerate the development of carbon reduction, capture and removal technologies that do not yet exist at scale, such ‘direct air capture’ technology.
“It won’t be easy,” Brad Smith added, “but we have problems to solve and technologies that need to be invented. It’s time to get to work.”
Posted under General Interest, Carbon Reduction and Creative and Digital Industries on 22 January 2020