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Microsoft’s Journey Towards Achieving Their Carbon Negative Goals

Ashley Carver



he start of the first Industrial Revolution in the mid-1700s sparked the beginning of the ongoing degradation of Earth’s atmosphere. Human activities have been releasing harmful toxins into the atmosphere for over three centuries, amounting to more than two trillion metric tons of greenhouse gases released so far, and an overall rise of 1 degree Celsius (33.8 degrees Fahrenheit) in the planet’s temperature. Approximately three-quarters of all greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, most of which stem from the 1950s onward. The immense quantity of carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere surpasses the rate in which nature can re-absorb the chemical compound. Aside from carbon dioxide, an additional 50 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases permeate the atmosphere annually due to human activities. The alarming truth is that carbon takes thousands of years to fully dissipate from the atmosphere, and Microsoft wants to do their part to help preserve the state of the atmosphere. On January 15, 2020, Microsoft announced two goals: to become carbon negative by 2030; and by 2050 to remove all of the carbon emitted into the environment resulting from the company’s actions since its origin in 1975.


Microsoft is taking several initiatives to help achieve their ambitious goals, starting with a program that aims to halve (at minimum) the company’s carbon emissions by 2030. The program will be funded by the expansion of their carbon fee, extending to charge for emissions from supply and value chains in addition to the current charge on direct emissions. Alongside the program, Microsoft dedicated a one billion dollar climate innovation fund to global climate mitigation efforts including carbon reduction and capturing, as well as removal technologies. The company also began utilizing Microsoft technology in an effort to aid their customers and suppliers in reducing their personal carbon footprint. To help give more direction to their aspirations, Microsoft outlined seven principles to follow. Two of the more self-explanatory principles consist of “Taking responsibility for our carbon footprint” and “Empowering customers around the world” (further explanation on the seven principles can be found here). An Environmental Sustainability Report will be published annually in order to provide the public with updates regarding the progress being made on Microsoft’s carbon impact and reduction journey.

As of January 2021, Microsoft managed to reduce their carbon footprint by six percent, or 730,000 metric tons. Throughout all of 2020, Microsoft partnered with their customers to develop low carbon strategies, and collaborated with 26 projects around the world to purchase the removal of carbon from the atmosphere, totaling to approximately 1.3 million metric tons expunged.

The most recent 2021 Environmental Sustainability Report highlighted some of Microsoft’s latest accomplishments. One of the most noteworthy being the Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability, launched in July 2021, that provides organizations with comprehensive and automated sustainability management services. Microsoft devoted $471 million to their Climate Innovation Fund, as well as donated $100 million to Breakthrough Energy’s catalyst initiative, a program with the intention of increasing the use of climate change technologies. Another breakthrough of 2021 surrounded improving device efficiency. Because of the pandemic, device usage and purchases increased; however, the carbon footprint for several products reduced significantly. Xbox’s now have an energy-saving mode that uses as little as 0.5W, and the Surface Pro 8 is the most energy efficient Surface Pro device to date. With the year just beginning, Microsoft has yet to release a 2022 Environmental Sustainability Report, but considering the progress made in 2021, the company is on track to achieving their goals.


Citations

  1. “Microsoft will be carbon negative by 2030,” Brad Smith. https://blogs.microsoft.com/bl....

  2. “How Microsoft is using an internal carbon fee to reach its carbon negative goal,” Elizabeth Willmott. https://cloudblogs.microsoft.c....

  3. “Climate Change: Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide,” Climate.gov.https://www.climate.gov/news-f....

  4. “2020 Environmental Sustainability Report,” Microsoft. https://query.prod.cms.rt.micr....

  5. “2021 Environmental Sustainability Report,” Microsoft.https://query.prod.cms.rt.micr....

  6. “Breakthrough Energy Catalyst,” Breakthrough Energy.https://breakthroughenergy.org....



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