Microsoft has joined the Climate Leadership Council, a group heavily criticized by activists. Among its founders are energy companies BP, ExxonMobil, and Shell, as well as General Motors.
The company aligns with Microsoft’s previous philosophy surrounding high carbon taxes, but it also seeks legal immunity from historic climate change damages. The CLC’s individual founders include former secretaries of state James Baker and George Shultz, as well as renowned scientist Stephen Hawking.
“Despite mounting risks from climate change and growing international calls for action, leading nations have yet to settle on a winning strategy capable of reducing greenhouse gas emissions at the necessary scale or speed,” reads the CLC’s mission statement. “Economists agree that a carbon fee is the most effective means to lower emissions, but advocates lack a successful policy and political formula to advance carbon pricing.”
Alongside a growing carbon tax, the Climate Leadership Council wants to “rollback…carbon regulations that are no longer necessary,” and “border carbon adjustments to level the playfield and promote American competitiveness”.
The CLC wants to pay these carbon taxes back to citizens in the form of dividends. It believes this would help poorer Americans, which could, in turn, lead to the ability to manage their carbon emissions more effectively.
Impatience or Impudence?
However, critics say this is unlikely to be the case. Historically, taxes trickle down the consumer in the form of more expensive products, meaning there is no net economic gain. In the long-term, they believe such policies would lead to corporations avoiding serious anti-climate change measures until there are huge consequences.
Conversely, Microsoft says its decision to join the CLC comes from impatience, not avoidance.
“We are getting extremely impatient, frankly, for policy action on climate change,” said Lucas Joppa, chief environmental officer, Microsoft, to The Guardian. “We support a carbon fee because we believe it’s a policy mechanism that works and accords with economic principles. For us, joining the CLC gives us the opportunity to have this debate at a federal level.”
Microsoft recently committed to a $15 per ton internal carbon tax and announced that its campus will soon be run with 100% carbon-free electricity. It also ramped up its data center plans for a goal of 70% renewable by 2023.