Story at a glance

  • Currently, Microsoft is run on about 60 percent renewable energy, with some buildings and data centers running on fossil fuels.
  • The company now announced an ambitious plan to work to remove carbon from the environment in addition to emitting none.
  • While this is a promising effort, the company still has outstanding deals with oil and gas firms.

Microsoft is making the pledge to go completely “carbon negative” by 2030 by removing more carbon from the environment than the company emits. 

Quoted in an AP report, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said that the carbon negativity will go into effect for the company’s supply chain in addition to direct emissions. This primarily applies to its data centers and building operations, the former of which rely on constant cooling measures to function properly. These grids tend to run on fossil fuels, which still emit carbon into the atmosphere.  

Microsoft’s previous green initiatives include self-imposed carbon taxes and investments in sustainable energy infrastructure. The software company still tends to rely on renewable energy credits (RECs), an intangible energy certificate, to confirm its carbon neutrality. 

Previously, Microsoft’s data centers were slated to be 60 percent powered by renewable energy by the end of 2019. This is notably smaller than similar tech giants like Apple and Google who do not use as many RECs to justify their carbon neutrality and boast 100 percent carbon neutrality. 

Microsoft intends to catch up, though, by 2025, setting a higher goal than the previous commitment of buildings operating on 70 percent renewable energy by 2023. 

“When it comes to carbon, neutrality is not enough,” says Bran Smith, Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer. “We have to get ourselves to net zero.” Considering Microsoft’s reported 16 million metric tons of carbon emissions per year, their carbon neutrality is likely to have a very positive impact. 

Elizabeth Jardim of Greenpeace notes that Microsoft’s business practices could be more sustainable, citing business partnerships with oil and gas companies to provide cloud computing and artificial intelligence to facilitate fossil fuel production. 

Still, she notes that this announcement, combined with Microsoft’s forthcoming $1 billion dollar fund for developing environmental technology, is a “more serious and holistic” commitment. 

Published on Jan 16, 2020