Many major companies have publicly announced their commitments to reduce their contributions to climate change, particularly after the occurrence of a number of extreme weather events that are thought to have been made worse by the impact of human activity. Amazon, for instance, recently announced its intention to become carbon neutral by 2040 by contributing to reforestation programs and switching to electric vehicles. Though Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has said that he wants Amazon to lead the world in transitioning to carbon-neutral forms of energy, Microsoft has unveiled a plan even more ambitious than Amazon’s, as not only did Microsoft recently pledge to become carbon negative by 2030, but the company also announced a plan to remove all of its historical carbon emissions by 2050.
Microsoft’s plan depends on the widespread deployment of carbon-capture technology which is currently expensive and not widely available. As such, a substantial component of the plan is to invest in developing this technology, as the company wants to spend $1 billion to fund innovation in this technology. The company has already been carbon neutral for the past eight years, as Microsoft is switching to renewable energy and purchases carbon offsets to negate the greenhouse gases they emit. The policy of being carbon-neutral is supported by a kind of internal carbon tax, as Microsoft charges its business units an internal fee for using greenhouse gases, driving these units to slash their emissions. Now, however, given the immediacy of the threat climate change poses, Microsoft has decided that their efforts thus far are not enough, and has pledged to radically transform their use of energy across their entire supply change.
Microsoft hopes that by investing a billion dollars into carbon capture technology, the company can drive innovation in the field, eventually bringing down the cost of the technology so that it is more practical for other businesses to use. With this technology, Microsoft hopes not only to make up for their own carbon emissions since the company’s founding in 1975, but to make it easier for other businesses to do the same. That being said, carbon capture technology is not without its critics, as some believe that the proliferation of this technology would delay the transition towards renewable energy sources and encourage companies to continue to emit carbon.
A number of problems exist when it comes to using carbon capture technology, not the least of which is the question of how to safely and permanently store the carbon after it is captured. Despite the company’s commitment to becoming carbon-negative, Microsoft continues to do business with oil and gas companies, which belong to an industry that has significant interest in carbon capture technology. The decision to work with these companies has been met with criticism from within Microsoft, as employees wrote a letter criticizing their employer for working with Chevron and Schlumberger, two oil companies. Microsoft sees their use of carbon capture technology as an appropriate method of negating the carbon emissions created by these companies; however, the company is sure to be met with criticism from environmentalists for this approach, despite the audacity of their recent announcement and plan.