Microsoft’s astonishing climate change goals, explained
The company plans to wipe out all of its carbon emissions — and keep going.
You could be forgiven for missing it, given the surplus of news, but the past few years have seen a profusion of climate change commitments from big tech companies. Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Apple have all promised to shrink their climate footprints, each attempting to outdo the others.
Climate advocates are naturally leery of these commitments. Those who lived through the faddish interest in climate in the mid-2000s, around the release of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, will recall the endless torrent of breathless corporate announcements. NBC had a “green week,” big corporations bought cheap offsets to become “carbon neutral,” automakers sold SUVs with vegan leather seats, and dozens of companies sold “sustainable” coffee cups, T-shirts, and tchotchkes. It was a greenwashing parade.
But times really have changed. The steps tech companies are taking these days represent a sea change in engagement. Climate change has moved out of the public relations department, into the C-suite, and down to the shop floor.
To explore the strength of recent corporate climate commitments (and their limits), I want to focus in on Microsoft, a widely acknowledged leader in the field. Earlier this year, it committed not just to reducing its emissions but to going carbon negative, wiping out all the carbon the company and its suppliers have emitted since its founding in 1975. In recent weeks, Microsoft has released a flurry of announcements updating its progress, so now seems like a propitious time to take a close look.
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