by Divina Paredes

Microsoft’s ‘moonshot’ to become carbon negative by 2030

Jan 17, 2020
IT Leadership

satya nadella in auckland
Credit: Microsoft NZ

Microsoft reveals an ambitious goal and a new plan to reduce and ultimately remove its carbon footprint, making it ‘carbon negative’ by 2030.

By 2050, Microsoft aims to remove from the environment all the carbon the company has emitted either directly or by electrical consumption since it was founded in 1975.

“This is a bold bet — a moonshot — for Microsoft. And it will need to become a moonshot for the world,” says Microsoft president Brad Smith.

“While the world will need to reach net zero, those of us who can afford to move faster and go further should do so,” he states.

Smith, together with CEO Satya Nadella, CFO Amy Hood, and chief environmental officer Lucas Joppa, announced the company’s plans at an event at Microsoft’s Redmond campus.

“Reducing carbon is where the world needs to go, and we recognise that it’s what our customers and employees are asking us to pursue,” says Smith in a blog detailing the company’s new plans.

In connection with this, Microsoft revealed a new programme to help its suppliers and customers reduce their own carbon footprints.

Microsoft says it is also investing US$1 billion over the next four years for a climate innovation fund to accelerate the global development of carbon reduction, capture and removal technologies.

“We understand that this is just a fraction of the investment needed, but our hope is that it spurs more governments and companies to invest in new ways as well,” says Smith.

Beyond ‘carbon neutral’

As Smith explains in his blog, Microsoft has worked hard to be “carbon neutral” since 2012.

But while the terms sound familiar, they are different.

Companies have typically said they are “carbon neutral” if they offset their emissions with payments either to avoid a reduction in emissions or remove carbon from the atmosphere. 

This is good, he writes, but it essentially pays someone not to do something that would have a negative impact. “It doesn’t lead to planting more trees that would have a positive impact by removing carbon.”

In contrast, “net zero” means that a company actually removes as much carbon as it emits.

“The reason the phrase is ‘net zero’ and not just ‘zero’ is because there are still carbon emissions, but these are equal to carbon removal. And ‘carbon negative’ means that a company is removing more carbon than it emits each year.”

He says the challenge Microsoft is taking on will not be easy, but it is the right goal, and with the right commitment, can be achievable.