Microsoft pledges to remove entire historical carbon footprint by 2050

Katie Ramirez
January 17, 2020

The computer giant made the announcement on Thursday, and its promise is the latest in a flurry of climate goals set out by private companies since Donald Trump chose to pull the United States out the Paris climate agreement in 2017.

Microsoft, one of the world's most valuable companies, said in a blog post that it has been carbon neutral since 2012 but that "neutral is not enough to address the world's needs" to fight the effects of climate change.

"But to really shift the needle on climate change, we need 1,000 other [companies] to follow-suit and turn rhetoric into action".

The firm has also promised to remove as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by 2050 as it has emitted from its operations since its founding in 1975, including emissions associated with its electricity consumption.

This often involves funding projects in developing economies to reduce carbon emissions there, for example building hydroelectric power plants, encouraging families to stop using wood-based stoves, and helping businesses make use of solar power. Microsoft's price is lower than that for carbon traded in California, where it was $17 (roughly Rs. 1,200) per ton in the most recent auction, and the European Union, where it was estimated to trade at Euro 26.57 (roughly Rs. 2,100), or $29.58 (roughly Rs. 2,300), in the current quarter.

Microsoft will support strong industry-wide standards for transparency and reporting on carbon emissions and removal, and it will apply these in a new, annual environmental sustainability report.

Ultimately, "by 2030 Microsoft will remove more carbon than it emits, setting us on a path to remove by 2050 all the carbon the company has emitted either directly or by electrical consumption since it was founded in 1975", Smith wrote.

Question remain about the technology that Microsoft is considering.

The fund will invest in technology already being developed and in promising new ideas for combating climate change, according to Hood.

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Earlier this week, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink said companies must act or face investors' anger over how unsustainable business practices might curb their future wealth.

But even as technology companies have stepped in with their own climate goal plans, they have faced criticism from their employees for doing too little. The world confronts an urgent carbon problem.

Microsoft plans to achieve its new goals using a cocktail of negative emission technologies (NET).

Amazon runs a bigger cloud business than Microsoft and a massive retail and logistics organization, with packaging, delivery and customer trips to its chain of Whole Foods stores all piling on to its carbon footprint.

The Californian company has said it will reduce emissions by 50 times more than its 2018 carbon footprint.

It was not immediately clear if the figures reported by the companies were exactly comparable. Microsoft in 2017 announced a multi-year deal to sell cloud services to USA energy giant Chevron Corp.

Microsoft said it will invest US$1 billion during the coming four years through a new "climate innovation fund" dedicated to backing technology for carbon capture and removal.

"If the last decade has taught us anything, it's that technology built without these principles can do more harm than good", Microsoft's chief executive, Satya Nadella, said on Thursday.

Microsoft's plan is still more aggressive than those taken by other tech firms, including Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon, which have not made "carbon negative" commitments.

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