On Jan. 16, 2020, tech giant Microsoft announced a plan to go carbon negative by 2030. The announcement is only a steppingstone toward reducing corporate greenhouse emissions, and by 2050, President of Microsoft Brad Smith stated, “Microsoft will remove all the carbon the company has emitted either directly or by electrical consumption since it was founded in 1975.”
But what does a carbon negative future mean, and how will it be achieved? In order to fulfill the goal of being carbon negative, the Washington-based company will need to remove more carbon emissions than they create. Microsoft dedicated $1 billion to a climate innovation fund which will allow them to create the sustainable technology needed to directly capture carbon from the air. In addition to funneling research into carbon-reducing tech projects, the company has stated they will transition to using 100% renewable energy sources in all their buildings and data centers by 2025, including seeking green building certification for their national campuses.
Going carbon negative is a bold proposal, surpassing the carbon neutral plans of other tech organizations. However, while Microsoft has started the decade vouching for completely reducing carbon emissions, they are still a major player in contributing to the climate crisis in the first place. The developments in green technology have also created advancements for Artificial Intelligence in aiding the process of extracting oil and other fossil fuels. Corporations such as Microsoft, Google and Amazon have signed deals with oil companies to develop innovations through modern technology which will increase the rate of fuel extraction. While Microsoft has been vocal about the need for clean energy, they hosted the “Empowering Oil and Gas with AI” exhibit during the Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition & Conference, a leading global forum in the oil and gas industry.
Recently, Microsoft engaged in a seven-year digital transformation project with Chevron, a leading oil corporation, to help advance their methods of extracting and supplying oil through new petrotechnical innovations. They have also participated in a deal with Exxon Mobil to use AI programs in enhancing oil operations in the West Texas Basin. These partnerships with primary oil companies are not only synonymous with the message tech companies are trying to promote about clean energy, but reveal that the sustainable changes corporations like Microsoft are making, are only minuscule in their actions toward generating pollution.
Even as a leading tech company with a $1 trillion net worth, the challenge of combating climate change is not an easy task. Much of the technology Microsoft hopes to use in reducing their carbon footprint has not been created or put into sustainable practices before. In order to successfully meet the 2030 agenda, not only would Microsoft need to drive down their current emissions, but they would need to produce environmentally conscious tech products for their consumers, and remove enough carbon dioxide from the environment to counter the remaining emissions.
While Microsoft’s leadership has verbally taken the first steps to reduce their contributions to global pollution, they cannot do it alone. Microsoft is the first to move in the right direction of producing technology through sustainable means, and hopes other leading corporations will join in taking action to tackle climate change before it is too late. The company has also called on the importance of passing greener public policy, and states they will be an advocate for accelerating carbon reduction programs and encouraging the adoption of a carbon tax. The 2030 plan by Microsoft has been noted to be a courageous move, and in the words of Smith, a “moonshot” for creating change; “it will need to become a moonshot for the world.”