Microsoft announces intention to go carbon negative by 2030C2G NEWS BRIEFING
20 January 2020
What just happened?
Microsoft has pledged to go carbon negative by 2030, and remove all its direct and indirect historical carbon emissions by 2050. It will invest $1bn over the next four years into carbon removal technologies.
Why does this matter?
One of the world’s largest companies has acknowledged that large-scale carbon dioxide removal is necessary to achieve international climate goals, in addition to urgent emissions reductions. The IPCC underlined this challenge in its 2018 special report on global warming of 1.5°C, but the international system has been slow to act on this finding.
Crucially, Microsoft’s announcement promises a significant investment into carbon dioxide removal.
C2G notes Microsoft’s decision to address governance issues in its announcement. Large-scale carbon removal– which can be nature-based, technology-based, or a hybrid of the two – creates significant governance challenges. The massive scale of removals needed to limit warming to 1.5C, per the IPCC’s findings, means additional governance is needed to address issues such as compensation and liability, methodological approaches, international cooperation and finance, transparency, monitoring and accountability.
As major players like Microsoft get into this space, it becomes increasingly urgent for the UNFCCC process, national and sub-national governments, and civil society to address these substantial governance gaps at both national and international levels. This is critical to protect people and ecosystems from potential adverse impacts, encourage co-benefits and support the attainment of all the SDGs. Progress in removing carbon from the atmosphere cannot come at the expense of human rights or food security for the world’s poorest communities.
It is also important that CO2 removal approaches don’t reduce pressure on governments and business to urgently cut emissions.
C2G has produced a number of briefs and infographics exploring these and other questions, including a paper ‘Governing Large-Scale Carbon Dioxide Removal: Are We Ready?’ which can be found here.
Things to watch out for
This announcement has many potential ramifications, which will need to be watched closely.
Governance: Who’s writing the rules? When will the UNFCCC process address the need for additional governance on removals, which is needed to safely scale those approaches society deems acceptable? Are the views and voices of all sectors of society – including the world’s poor and most vulnerable people—taken into consideration, alongside those from the private sector?
Broader Impact: Will other large companies follow Microsoft’s lead? Will national governments similarly announce carbon dioxide removal goals? (C2G will be exploring this idea in a new discussion paper to be published next month).
Storage and permanence of the removed CO2: These are key issues; with permanence especially important for nature-based approaches.