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Microsoft Launches $1 Billion Climate Fund

La Tuna fire 2017

The La Tuna Fire burns in the Verdugo Mountains in the eastern San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, September 2017. (Scott L, Flickr)

20 Jan. 2020. Microsoft Corp. plans to invest $1 billion over the next four years to create technologies for removing carbon from the atmosphere. The company announced its Climate Innovation Fund on Thursday, as part of an initiative to become carbon negative by 2030.

The $1 billion Climate Innovation Fund, says Microsoft in a company blog post, will use equity investments and loans to fund projects that accelerate current technologies in development, as well as finance entirely new innovations. The new investments will target initiatives and companies meeting four criteria:

High likelihood of success in meaningful carbon removal or improving climate resilience

Accelerate market acceptance for current and proposed solutions

Consider climate equity, including for developing economies

Help Microsoft create technologies to meet its own current and future climate goals

The company will also continue its A.I. for Earth program that provides grants for applying artificial intelligence for climate monitoring and modeling, and supports open-source tools, models, data, and application program interface software for sustainability and environmental science. Microsoft says the program started two years ago, and new supports some 450 grantees in 70 countries.

The Climate Innovation Fund is part of the company’s program to sharply reduce its carbon footprint. “By 2030 Microsoft will be carbon negative,” says Microsoft president Brad Smith in a company statement, “and by 2050 Microsoft will remove from the environment all the carbon the company has emitted either directly or by electrical consumption since it was founded in 1975.”

The company says its carbon removal program is based on advances in science and mathematics, particularly so-called carbon math. In the blog post the company notes …

The importance of this issue is underscored by the advances in scientific research during the past few years. These findings make clear both that the average temperature on the planet has risen by 1 degree Celsius during the past 50 years and that carbon dioxide emissions have been a primary driver of this and this temperature increase. Indeed, if we fail to change substantially and quickly, there is a high risk that average temperatures will increase between another one and four degrees Celsius by the end of this century. And the impact of such a temperature increase would be catastrophic.

To account for carbon math, Microsoft plans to focus on carbon emissions directly produced by the company, such as from its delivery trucks, and from the heat and electricity it consumes. In addition, the company aims to reduce emissions created indirectly by, for example, materials in its buildings, business travel by employees, electricity consumed by using its products, and by suppliers and customers in the supply chain. Microsoft says emission from these indirect sources eclipse the company’s direct production of carbon, and cites data showing the company expects to emit 16 million metric tons of carbon this year, of which 12 million tons will come from indirect sources.

By the year 2030, the company plans to become carbon-negative, removing more carbon from the atmosphere that it emits. to meet this goal, Microsoft says it will develop technologies to help customers and suppliers reduce their carbon footprints, and enlist its employees in the effort as well. In addition, the company will prepare an annual environmental sustainability report and support public policies to accelerate reduction and removal of carbon from the atmosphere.

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