Microsoft Commits to Being Carbon Negative by 2030

The tech company is forging an aggressive climate rejuvenation path

What: Microsoft has been working on being “carbon neutral” for almost a decade, but this is the first time it’s committing to removing all the equivalent carbon from the atmosphere it’s produced as a company since 1975.

How: The company plans to look at its own carbon management processes and those of potential partners. It will also fund carbon removal development technologies.

Why Do You Care: Climate change is a scientific fact and much of it comes from our own activities, often supported by products and services from major tech companies like Microsoft. Many companies are now carbon neutral, ensuring they don’t make the problem worse, but few have pledged to find ways to remove carbon from the atmosphere.

Microsoft execs
Microsoft President Brad Smith, Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood and CEO Satya Nadella preparing to announce Microsoft’s plan to be carbon negative by 2030.  Brian Smale

2019 was the second warmest year since the advent of modern weather record-keeping and, according to NASA, the past five years account for the warmest years in the past century and a half. Climate change, which is driven by greenhouse gasses spurred by carbon emissions, threatens to change the world in a myriad of unpleasant and potentially unlivable ways.

Microsoft apparently gets this. The 43-year-old tech company committed on Thursday to an aggressive climate recovery plan that will make it not just carbon neutral (which usually involves investing in carbon offsets), but carbon negative by the end of this decade. By the middle of this century, Microsoft is pledging to remove all the carbon it put into the atmosphere since its founding in 1975.

“In short, neutral is not enough to address the world’s needs,” wrote the company in a blog post announcing the initiative.

The company released a detailed plan that includes a $1 billion dollar climate innovation fund to spur the development of carbon removal technology, and a new internal carbon fee that will generate funds for further emissions reductions and more investment in new carbon removal techniques. Microsoft will also, starting next year, lean on partners to reduce their own emissions.

Microsoft will also help business customers keep track of their own carbon footprints when using Microsoft services with a new Microsoft Sustainability Calculator, which will estimate emissions created using Azure services. This will be married with a new option to choose green energy options through Microsoft partner Vattenfall.

What Microsoft hopes to achieve is a tall order. The company even describes it as a “moonshot,” but it’s also a signal to other major tech companies and the consumers who use their products and services that the time for bold action on climate change is probably right now.