Microsoft to erase its carbon footprint in climate push

WNM | Jan 17, 2020 at 6:50 AM
Microsoft (Brian Smale)

January 16 (WNM/Reuters Stephen Nellis/Jeffrey Dastin) - Microsoft will set a new ambition in addressing climate change, pledging to remove as much carbon as it has emitted in its 45-year history.

The focus on clearing carbon from the atmosphere sets Microsoft's climate goals apart from other corporate pledges which have focused on cutting ongoing emissions or preventing future ones.

"If the last decade has taught us anything, it's that technology built without these principles can do more harm than good," Chief Executive Satya Nadella said at a media event at Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond, Washington.

"We must begin to offset the damaging effects of climate change," he said, adding if global temperatures continue to rise unabated "the results will be devastating."

The plan includes the creation of a "Climate Innovation Fund," which will invest $1 billion over the next four years to speed up the development of carbon removal technology.

The announcement by the world's largest software company reflects the rising profile of U.S. corporate action after President Donald Trump announced in 2017 his decision to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement, the global pact to fight climate change.

Microsoft's pledge to address its historical emissions may resonate with some developing nations which say countries that created the most carbon, and wealth in the process, are not taking responsibility for their past pollution.

U.S. Senators Chris Coons, a Democrat from Delaware, and Mike Braun, an Indiana Republican, applauded Microsoft.

"The scope and scale of this proposal is exactly the kind of bold action we need from the business community," the pair, chairs of the bipartisan Senate Climate Solutions Caucus, said in a statement.

Microsoft plans to cut carbon emissions by more than half by 2030 across its supply chain, an effort requiring technology that does not fully exist, company President Brad Smith said.

He said Microsoft would widen the reach of a fee it has charged its business divisions to account for their carbon emissions.

Microsoft said it charges $15 per metric ton for core carbon emissions internally and will expand the coverage in phases to cover all emissions. Microsoft's price is lower than that for carbon traded in California, where it was $17 per ton in the most recent auction, and the European Union, where it was estimated to trade at 26.57 euros, or $29.58, in the current quarter.