Breaking:Tech giant promises that by 2050 it will remove as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as it has emitted since its founding in 1975
Tech giant Microsoft has today unveiled one of the most sweeping sustainability strategies in corporate history, promising it will become a 'carbon negative' organisation by 2030, including throughout its entire supply chain.
The firm has also promised to remove as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by 2050 as it has emitted from its operations since its founding in 1975, including emissions associated with its electricity consumption.
In addition, CEO Satya Nadella said Microsoft will launch a $1bn carbon innovation fund to drive development of new carbon reduction and removal technologies.
"The scientific consensus is clear," said Nadella at a global media event this afternoon. "The world today is confronted with an urgent carbon crisis. If we don't curb emissions and temperatures continue to climb, science tells us that the results will be devastating."
"This is the decade for urgent action, for Microsoft and for all of us," he added. "To take bold steps forwards to address our most pressing challenges."
Microsoft has been operating as a 'carbon neutral' company since 2012. But today's landmark three-part announcement goes further than almost any other major corporate in terms of emissions reduction ambition. Within that context, its promise to go beyond carbon neutrality across its operations and entire supply chains is likely to be viewed as ground-breaking for such a large company.
However, the pledges also provide a further boost to a fast-expanding global trend, which has seen hundreds of major companies commit to delivering net zero emissions in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement.
Microsoft emits 16 million metric tonnes of emissions a year across its Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions. It said it would drive its Scope 1 and 2 emissions - which cover its direct emissions and emissions from energy - to 'near zero', in part by arranging Power Purchase Agreements for renewable power to meet all its energy consumption by 2025. Its global campus operations fleet will also be entirely electrified by 2030, it added.
To address its Scope 3 supply chain emissions, Microsoft said it will expand its internal carbon tax to all business divisions and roll out a new procurement process to embed sustainability at the heart of its materials sourcing practices. The move will give Microsoft more cash to invest in sustainability, it said, while incentivising every business group to drive down emissions.
Microsoft also said it will launch a new Sustainability Calculator tool to help users of its products to calculate the emissions impact of their cloud computing and provide them with "carbon clarity".
"What we are saying, what no company has said before, is that we are going to take this number of 16 million, and on a net basis by 2030 we will get it below zero," explained Microsoft President Brad Smith. "That means that we are going to be reducing our emissions and then removing from the environment more carbon than we are emitting."
To deliver its promise to remove more carbon dioxide than it has ever emitted by 2050, the company said it will start offsetting using nature-based solutions such as reforestation and soil carbon sequestration programmes. "What we will look forward to doing, and what the world needs, is new technology," said Smith. "It needs technology that doesn't fully exist today, for example to remove carbon from the atmosphere."
As such Microsoft is promising to invest $1bn over the next four years to drive the development of technologies such as Direct Air Capture, where carbon is sucked out of the air and stored underground. The funding could take the form of project finance, debt or equity investment, Microsoft said, with a view to finding solutions that the company could eventually buy to help towards its carbon goals.
"We deeply understand that this is just a fraction of what is needed to solve this problem," admitted chief financial officer Amy Hood. "We hope that by doing this we will set an example for both governments and other companies to invest along with us to solve this problem."
These actions will be underpinned by Microsoft's drive for "real and effective transparency", Smith added. He promised Microsoft will share its plan to reduce emissions publicly, publish annual emissions reports, and push for consistent disclosure standards for emissions.
Microsoft also announced that it is today signing the UN's Business Ambition for 1.5C, which launched in June as part of the UN's effort to rally support for tougher climate action from world leaders. It joins more than 50 corporates - including Burberry, the Co-operative Group, Danone, Nestle, L'Oreal, Orsted, and Salesforce.com - which have announced plans to set a 1.5C science-based target or hit net zero emissions by mid-century at the latest. "It's a bold bet to solve a big problem," said Smith.
But Microsoft executives today stressed the importance of every company taking such radical action to drive emission reductions. "We are making the types of commitments that no company has made before," Smith added. "But they are the types of commitments that many companies we believe will want to make in the years ahead."