Microsoft unveiled new plans on Thursday for the company to be “carbon negative” by 2030, meaning it will go beyond maintaining a zero carbon footprint and actively remove carbon dioxide from the Earth’s atmosphere.
“We must take responsibility to address the carbon footprint of our own technology and company,” he said. Companies with the resources to go beyond net zero emissions, a Microsoft statement urged, should do so by making up the difference for those that can’t or won’t.
The company plans to eliminate the impact of its own historic emissions — going back to its 1975 founding — by 2050, Nadella added. That includes all the carbon the company has emitted directly or through its electricity consumption. The massive company, which employs nearly 150,000 people, anticipates it will emit 16 million metric tons of carbon this year alone.
To meet its ambitious goal, Microsoft is starting a $1 billion “climate innovation fund” to accelerate carbon reduction technology ― something that remains expensive and not widely available. Beyond expanding carbon-absorbing forests, current prospects include using materials that absorb carbon directly from the air, capturing and storing carbon underground, developing tools to help carbon dissolve in water, and more.
The more immediate move, however, will be meeting new goals to shift the company’s entire operation to renewable energy sources by 2025.
“This is the decade for urgent action, for Microsoft and for all of us, to take bold steps forward to address our most pressing challenges,” Nadella said.
Scientists agree. From 2014 to 2018, the planet recorded its five hottest years ever, and the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned in 2018 that humanity has just under a decade to get climate change under control.
Nadella’s announcement comes just a few months after Microsoft workers released a letter disparaging the company for working with oil and gas companies, calling its leaders “complicit” in climate change.
“If we want to make real impact, all of us need to mobilise, work together, and demand a fundamental change in Microsoft’s priorities,” they wrote in the September letter, which was released ahead of the global climate strike, which they participated in alongside Google and Amazon employees.
But Microsoft said Thursday it will keep working with oil and gas companies, arguing that is what’s necessary to change the industry.
“It’s imperative that we enable energy companies to transition,” a statement said, “including to renewable energy and to the development and use of negative emission technologies like carbon capture and storage and direct air capture.”