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Microsoft buys 1.3 million carbon offsets in 2021 portfolio


Company using forests to remove bulk of CO2 emissions

Aims to become carbon negative by 2030

Microsoft sharing knowledge to catalyze wider action

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London — Multinational technology company Microsoft has contracted a total of 1.3 million greenhouse gas emissions offsets for 2021 as part of a drive to become carbon negative by 2030, it said Jan. 28.

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The company has contracted the offset credits in its full-year 2021 carbon removal portfolio, with the bulk of the volume coming from forestry projects which lock up atmospheric CO2 emissions.

Of the 1.3 million mt of offset credits, 1.1 million mt were linked to forestry projects while a further 193,000 mt came from soil carbon sequestration projects.

The remaining volume comprised 2,000 mt from bioenergy, 2,000 mt from biochar and 1,000 mt from direct air capture projects, the company said.

Microsoft's global emissions stood at about 12 million mt in 2019 and it reduced emissions by 587,000 mt in 2020, according to company data.

The company plans to reduce its total emissions to about 5 million mt by 2030, and plans to offset this amount to become a net-zero emissions company within the decade, the figures show.

It also wants to go further by removing its entire historical CO2 emissions by mid-century.

"We've committed to be carbon negative by 2030. This means reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by more than half, removing the rest, and then removing the equivalent of our historical emissions by 2050," the company said in a statement.

Focus on carbon removals

The company's climate strategy involves sharing insights and lessons learned with the industry.

It also wants to source projects that keep carbon out of the atmosphere, monitor them for so-called "reversals" -- meaning release of carbon back into the atmosphere -- and provide recourse in case of failure.

Microsoft wants to support solutions that meet a high standard of verification while maintaining practicality for corporate procurement, the company said.

Microsoft made a request for carbon removal proposals in July 2020 and received proposals representing 189 projects. The company chose to purchase from 15 suppliers representing more than 1.3 million mt of CO2 removals.

The International Energy Agency estimated that global GHG emissions fell by 8% in 2020 due to the impact of the pandemic.

Global emissions will have to fall by an equivalent amount every year until 2030, even as economies rebound from the virus, Microsoft said in a white paper.

"Failure to achieve carbon removal at scale places a fantastic burden on reduction efforts, nearly doubling the required global reductions to 15% every year through 2040 if the world is to have a real chance of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius," the company said.

"That stark reality is why Microsoft and other entities committed to climate action need to take what is currently an immature market for negative emissions technologies -- or carbon removal -- and expand it as quickly as possible," it said.

By sharing its experiences, Microsoft aims to catalyze discussion and collaboration that will lead to the development of a more robust global market for corporate procurement of carbon removal solutions, the company said.

Corporate commitments to offset emissions are expected to spur rising demand for offset credits in a wide range of voluntary emissions offsetting programs.

S&P Global Platts launched price assessments Jan. 4 for CORSIA-eligible carbon (CEC) credits linked to the UN's Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation.

CEC prices were assessed at $1.02 per mt of CO2 equivalent at the close Jan. 28, according to Platts assessments.