“This is a bold bet — a moonshot — for Microsoft. And it will need to become a moonshot for the world”, declared Brad Smith, president of Microsoft, while announcing the company’s goal to become carbon negative, or remove more carbon from the environment than it releases, by 2030. Microsoft has already devoted ample time and resources to accomplish this goal. Additionally, Microsoft has pledged that by 2050, it will “remove from the environment all the carbon the company has emitted either directly or by electrical consumption since it was founded in 1975.” As this is an ambitious objective, much must take place in order for Microsoft to accomplish its goal.
In an interview, Smith himself remarked, “It will require an enormous effort, but I think it’s the kind of effort we all need to make.” Since 2012, the company had primarily invested in offsets that reduced their carbon emissions, such as using electric machinery, rather than investing in initiatives that removed already-emitted carbon from the atmosphere; in contrast, the company now aims to invest in the latter. Looking to the future, Microsoft plans to shift its energy supply to one hundred percent renewable energy within the next five years. Through efforts such as reforestation, bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, and direct air capture, Microsoft seeks to ultimately remove the carbon emitted by its industries. Additionally, the company will use only electric vehicles on its campuses by 2030 and install an internal carbon tax. This tax system operates with a fee of fifteen dollars per metric ton of carbon emissions each company division is responsible for. The funds of the taxes are then channeled to “sustainability improvements”.
For many, Microsoft’s goal may seem nearly impossible to accomplish, especially considering Microsoft’s acknowledgment that the steps of carbon removal they aim to execute involve technology that does not exist today. For example, according to Smith, becoming carbon negative and removing already-emitted carbon from the atmosphere requires carbon removal technology. Presently, little technology is able to accomplish this, but Microsoft has already invested one billion dollars into a climate innovation fund that dedicates resources to reducing carbon emissions. In addition, the assets of the fund are dedicated to accelerating developments in current carbon reduction technology and supporting new innovations in the field.
Although difficult to achieve, if Microsoft is able to accomplish its goal within its timeline, the impact could be significant. Not only would the environmental benefits be remarkable, but this innovation would also bring considerable inspiration to others battling climate change. Microsoft estimates that humans have been the cause of the emission of about two trillion metric tons of greenhouse gases into the Earth’s atmosphere since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Although greenhouse gases in moderation are not detrimental, the vast quantity being produced recently has caused heat to be trapped in the earth’s atmosphere, leading to warming temperatures. The effects of global warming are well known: polar ice caps melting, ecosystems collapsing, rising water levels, increases in droughts and heatwaves, and more. With its immense effort to achieve carbon negativity, Microsoft seeks to cut around half of the sixteen million metric tons of carbon it produces yearly. Next, to balance their emissions until they remove more carbon than they produce, they will utilize the mentioned carbon removal techniques. In other words, Microsoft will be removing millions of metric tons of carbon from the earth’s atmosphere within the next decade.
This being said, although it is an expansive, worldwide corporation, Microsoft alone is evidently incapable of repairing all issues related to global warming. It can be argued that the more impactful result of the company’s new goal is the leadership and inspiration they will provide, not only for individuals but for larger corporations seeking to make an impact on the environment. By setting such an impressive precedent, Microsoft clearly delivers a message about the importance and urgency of reducing carbon emissions. Indeed, Microsoft continues to push forward in its environmental efforts as exemplified in Smith’s declaration, “We believe we can launch this new initiative today with a well-developed plan and a clear line of sight… It’s time to get to work.”