Microsoft is one company that is fulfilling its net zero emissions commitments. After announcing in January 2020 to become carbon negative by 2030, the company bought carbon dioxide removal of 1.3 million metric tons of CO2 from 26 projects around the world.
Through those projects, Microsoft aims to not only offset its total annual emissions but also remove more carbon from the atmosphere than it emits. By 2050, the company also targets to remove all of the greenhouse gases it has released since its founding in 1975.
Those very ambitious climate targets are backed by bold actions and investments. Some of the carbon dioxide removal projects purchased by the company include soil regeneration across the US farms, expanding forests in Peru, Nicaragua and the US, paying Climeworks to remove CO2 directly from the air and store it underground where it turns into stone.
One of the lessons that the company shares is that the available solutions at the moment for removing CO2 and eliminating emissions are a tiny proportion of what is actually needed to reach the global target of carbon neutrality by 2050. The world would have to remove between 2 – 10 gigatons of CO2 per year to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius.
The company shares it had received 189 proposals offering 154 megatons of CO2 over the coming years, out of which only 55 megatons were available immediately, and a mere 2 megatons met Microsoft’s criteria for high-quality CO2 removal.
The second lesson learned shared by management is that those few proposals that met the criteria, were lacking standards and clear definitions. Around one-fifth of the proposals to Microsoft focused on avoiding new emissions and not on taking out CO2 from the atmosphere so those were rejected as a result.
The rest were lacking technical information to ensure reliability. In fact, the company highlights there’s no standard way to measure, report and verify CO2 removed which is a great barrier to investment.
The third lesson is that systems for accounting for carbon removal do not distinguish between short- and long-term forms of CO2 storage. That means more durable solutions are overlooked which also distorts the market investments.
Most of the proposals the company received were nature-based storage projects sequestering carbon for less than 100 years. “It is cheaper and easier to establish trees and enrich soils than to deploy nascent technologies that capture carbon and store it geologically,” according to conclusions made by the company.
However, the company also shares that trees will not be enough on their own to remove carbon from the atmosphere. Forest carbon offsets are threatened by wildfires and other risks. As it was reported back in August, blazes had already destroyed some forests and thus carbon offset credits bought by Microsoft and other corporations.
Microsoft is one of the companies that take climate change seriously and prioritize setting up a strategy actually reducing co2 emissions from the atmosphere. Nature-based solutions are at the core of Microsoft’s carbon negative strategy but the company is about to expand on other solutions to execute its CO2 removal plan over the next decade.