Microsoft picks a side, aims to make the business 'carbon-negative' by 2030

Plans to cancel out emissions from power consumption since 1975. No word on warming through excessive corporate hot air though


Microsoft has set itself the goal of being "carbon-negative" by 2030, nailing its colours to a so-called "moonshot" for worldwide removal and reduction of carbon.

By 2050, it aims to have removed all the carbon it has emitted (either directly or through electrical consumption) since 1975.

"Moonshot" is an unfortunate turn of phrase, since some rockets have an impressively large carbon footprint of their own, and even the greatest of NASA apologists would struggle to call the Apollo programme "sustainable."

The Redmond gang intends to use a variety of technology to get itself over the line, including reforestation, soil carbon sequestration (basically burying the stuff) and a variety of carbon capture methods. Citing the current scientific consensus, Microsoft hand-wringer in chief, Brad Smith, blogged that action was needed to avoid "catastrophic" results.

Indeed, how will stockholders see a decent return if there are no humans left to buy Microsoft 365 subscriptions?

Methane has also been fingered by boffins as a culprit in the whodunnit of climate change, and there is no doubt that Microsoft has spewed plenty of that of the years. We fondly remember the emissions made over Zune, Windows Phone, Media Center and Surface RT. Somewhere, we're sure, lurks a steaming pile of Microsoft Bob boxes needing to be, er, sequestrated in a deep dark pit.

Still, snark aside, Microsoft has to be applauded for putting its money where its mouth is, with $1bn being spanked on a "climate innovation fund" to create the tech Smith and co think is needed.

The company's suppliers will also be looking a little nervously at plans to slice emissions by more than half for "the entire supply and value chain" by 2030.

"Those of us who can afford to move faster and go further should do so," stated Smith.

Competitor Apple has its own take on things, with its 2019 progress report laying claim to a 35 per cent reduction in its carbon footprint compared to 2015. Unsurprisingly, 74 per cent of the fruity firm's 25.2 million metric tons of metric tons of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) emissions comes from manufacturing.

AWS trumpeted the fact that it has "exceeded 50 per cent renewable energy usage for 2018" before going on to suggest that IT operations could reduce their own carbon footprint by 88 per cent by, er, moving to AWS. Classy move.

Arch-rival Google claims to have been "carbon neutral" (PDF) since 2007. It took Microsoft until 2012 to achieve the same milestone, although that status, as the Windows vendor points out, can be achieved by simply investing in offsets.

Actually removing carbon that has already been emitted, as Microsoft plans, is a whole different ball game.

The Register has contacted Google, Apple and Amazon for their thoughts on carbon removal rather than carbon neutrality and will update with their responses.

Microsoft has also pulled back the curtain on a Sustainability Calculator to show Azure customers the emission associated with their Azure services.

Progress toward the company's lofty goal will be tracked in an annual Environmental Sustainability Report. ®

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