Microsoft accelerates goals for reducing carbon footprint

Software giant will nearly double the internal tax it charges its business divisions on all carbon emissions.

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Steven Musil
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Microsoft is ramping up it efforts to reduce its carbon footprint.

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Microsoft says it's ramping up efforts to reduce its carbon footprint in response to increasingly dramatic changes to the world's environment.

The software giant on Monday unveiled a corporate plan to increase its pace of meeting sustainability goals, including expediting the move of its data centers to 100% renewable energy. The company expects to hit its 60% goal by the end of the year and achieve 75% for 2023, surpassing its previous 70% goal.

"The magnitude and speed of the world's environmental changes have made it increasingly clear that we must do more, and today Microsoft is taking steps to do just that," Microsoft President and chief counsel Brad Smith said in a statement. "We're taking action to put our own house in order, while increasingly addressing sustainability challenges around the globe by engaging our strongest assets as a company -- our employees and our technologies."

Central to Microsoft's efforts to reach its goal is an increase in the company's internal carbon fee to $15 per metric ton on all carbon emissions, nearly double the $8 to $10 its business units previously paid. The company put the internal carbon fee in place in 2012 to hold its business divisions financially responsible for reducing carbon emissions.

Other components to its goals of reducing its carbon footprint include powering its Puget Sound, Washington, campus on renewable energy and accelerating research on its AI for Earth program to help people adapt and thrive in a changing environment.  

Microsoft isn't the only Silicon Valley company confronting climate change. Apple has pledge to use 100 percent recycled materials for its products, Google aims to use millions of solar panels to power data centers, and earlier this month, thousands of Amazon employees signed an open letter asking the e-commerce giant to take more aggressive actions on climate change.

"Time is too short, resources too thin and the impact too large to wait for all the answers to act," Smith wrote. "There's an incredible opportunity to be realized by acting, supported by data and technology, on climate change."