As the conversation surrounding climate change heats up once more, Microsoft is announcing some large-scale commitments to reduce its carbon footprint. Aside from efforts to reduce its data center and campus emissions, it will ensure a portion of its Xbox's are carbon neutral.
“The urgency of the climate crisis has by now fully been absorbed, and the conversation has turned to the practical matter of what needs to be done to mitigate the worst impacts of a rapidly changing climate and adapt to that which we cannot avoid”, said Lucas Joppa, chief environmental officer at Microsoft. “This means that the time of raised ambitions and grand announcements without clear action plans is also past.”
It will craft 825,000 carbon-neutral Xbox's, in what it says is a first for the console industry. The tech giant didn't share exactly how it plans to achieve the goal, or when the consoles will hit the market. It did, however, talk about adjusting its operations and supply chain plans to better reflect the world we're heading for.
Moving from a 2C to 1.5C Target
First, Microsoft is aligning its operations with targets to limit warming to 1.5C. This is more aggressive than the 2C of the Paris Climate accords. As part of the move, it's had its renewable energy target certified by the Science Based Target Initiative.
Interestingly, the trend towards 1.5C targets is one 16-year-old Greta Thunberg discussed in her UN speech.
“The popular emissions of cutting our emissions in half in ten years only gives us a 50% chance of staying below 1.5-degrees and the risk of setting off irreversible chain reactions beyond human control,” she said. “50% may be acceptable to you, but those numbers do not include tipping points, most feedback loops, additional warming hidden by toxic air pollution, or the aspects of equity and climate justice.”
Microsoft plans to cut its scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions intensity per unit of revenue by 30% by 2030, starting from 2017. It has also made a commitment to annually source 100% renewable electricity through 2030.
Finally, the company says it will continue to expands its current programs and put technology in the hands of people who can make a difference. This includes its AI for Earth program, which hands out grants for innovative environmental solutions.
Of course, all of this comes off the back of significant criticism leveled at Microsoft. A group of employees points out that though the company is getting its house in order, it continues to provide tech to big oil companies. A recent partnership with Chevron provides technology, in part, to make its oil and gas exploitation more profitable.
“It's important to note that while we've made progress on several fronts, there is still much work to do within Microsoft to embed sustainability more deeply across the company and into all that we do,” acknowledges Microsoft's Joppa. “We are committed to doing this work and being transparent about our journey. And we'll continue to work with external organizations like the Science Based Target Initiative and CDP, which have done so much to drive concrete, measurable change to hold us accountable and aligned to the best science.”
You can read more about Microsoft's climate goals in its full blog post.