The big picture: According to a 2018 United Nations scientific report, we'll have to do more than reduce carbon emissions in order to prevent a dangerous rise in global temperature in the near future. Microsoft is the first big tech company that has pledged to not only become carbon neutral, but also invest in direct air capture technologies that help suck carbon out of the atmosphere.
About a month ago, top tech CEOs signed a joint letter urging the United States to stay in the Paris Agreement and help combat climate change. Now, Microsoft has announced it wants to become "carbon negative" by 2030, which is essentially a promise to fund emerging methods that suck carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
This is a first among big tech companies, and it doesn't stop there. Microsoft says that by 2050 it wants to "remove from the environment all the carbon the company has emitted either directly or by electrical consumption since it was founded in 1975."
The Redmond company says it started efforts to become "carbon neutral" in 2012, through a combination of purchasing renewable energy and carbon offsets, as well as charging its business divisions an internal fee commensurate with the level of their emissions. By 2025, Microsoft will source all of its power from renewables, and will put together a fund to undo its damage to the climate.
To that end, the company has committed to a plan to suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere by pouring $1 billion into making the current emerging technologies cheaper and more scalable. This also opens up the possibility for others to use these as a service in the future in order to reduce their own carbon footprint.
This year, Microsoft expects it will emit 16 million metric tons of carbon, 100,000 of which are direct emissions from vehicles, 4 million from the electricity it uses to run its operations, and 12 million from indirect emissions that come from say, manufacturing its Surface line of products.
Other tech giants are also planning to reduce their carbon footprint, with Google employees demanding a climate action plan to become neutral by 2030. Meanwhile Amazon's Jeff Bezos is an outspoken CEO that's calling for a less ambitious deadline of 2040 that all companies can adhere to.