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Walking the Talk
Microsoft Will Remove Its 45 Years' Worth of Carbon Emissions by 2030

The tech giant has committed to carbon-negativity within a decade, and erasing its entire carbon footprint — everything it has emitted since its founding in 1975 — by 2050.

Today, Microsoft made an industry-first announcement to achieve carbon-negativity by 2030; and by 2050, to have removed enough carbon from the atmosphere to account for all of the emissions it created during its 45-year history.

In a blog post detailing the commitment and the math behind it, Microsoft President Brad Smith explains that, while scientific consensus spells out the need for the world to at least reach net zero, “those of us who can afford to move faster and go further should do so.”

Acknowledging that progress requires not just a bold goal but a detailed plan, Smith gives a detailed breakdown of the company’s strategy to cut its carbon emissions by more than half by 2030, both for its direct emissions and for its entire supply and value chain. Microsoft intends to fund the effort in part by expanding its internal carbon fee, in place since 2012 and increased last year, to start charging both internal and external emissions.

As Smith explains, the company plans to:

  • launch an initiative to use Microsoft technology to help its suppliers and customers around the world reduce their own carbon footprints;

  • launch a $1 billion climate innovation fund to accelerate the global development of carbon reduction, capture and removal technologies.

  • Beginning next year, the company will also make carbon reduction an explicit aspect of our procurement processes for our supply chain.

  • Microsoft will be a vocal advocate for public policy that will accelerate carbon reduction and removal opportunities.

Microsoft achieved carbon neutrality in 2013 after introducing its internal carbon fee for renewable energy and carbon offsets. Today, Smith asserted 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 organization 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.” — Microsoft President Brad Smith

While Smith calls the commitment a “moonshot” for the company, he emphasizes that “it will need to become a moonshot for the world” if we’re going to turn the tables on climate change in time.

Elizabeth Sturcken, Managing Director of EDF+Business, echoed that sentiment in a statement following the announcement:

“Microsoft is at the helm of what could be a new movement towards negative emissions; it’s a big step beyond what most companies have committed to. But to really shift the needle on climate change, we need 1,000 other Microsofts to follow suit and turn rhetoric into action."

“The most important part of Microsoft’s announcement is its commitment to advocate for public policies that will drive down emissions across the economy," Sturcken added. "The urgency and magnitude of the climate challenge demands a much bigger response than cutting greenhouse gas emissions within a company’s facilities or even its entire supply chain. A company’s most powerful tool for fighting climate change is its political influence, and we’re eager to see Microsoft use it."

Investing for new carbon-reduction and -removal technology

In the blog post, Smith acknowledged that achieving these ambitious goals will require “technology that does not exist today. … Our new Climate Innovation Fund will commit to invest $1 billion over the next four years into new technologies and expand access to capital around the world to people working to solve this problem. We understand that this is just a fraction of the investment needed, but our hope is that it spurs more governments and companies to invest in new ways, as well.”

As CEO Satya Nadella said during the announcement:

“If the last decade has taught us anything, it’s that technology built without these principles can do more harm than good. We must begin to offset the damaging effects of climate change.”

Empowering customers

In addition to erasing its own carbon footprint, Microsoft is on a mission to help its customers around the world reduce their carbon footprints with the help of data science, artificial intelligence and digital technology.

As “better tracking of carbon starts by creating greater transparency on the carbon impact of services and products,” today the company also launched a new tool, the Microsoft Sustainability Calculator, to help customers better understand the carbon impact of their cloud workloads and more; as well as a new, 24/7 matching solution called Vattenfall — a first-of-its-kind approach that gives customers the ability to choose the clean energy they prefer.

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