Microsoft has used the recent COP26 summit to outline its sustainability plans for the years ahead.

The tech giant has already made clear its ambitious plans to become fully carbon negative by 2030 – to remove more carbon than it creates every year. Furthermore, by 2050 Microsoft plans to have removed all the carbon it would have generated since it was originally founded.

Now, company president Brad Smith has used the COP26 summit – for which Microsoft was a principal partner – to outline the specific ways in which this would be achieved.

Speaking to BBC News, Smith explained how the company has already shifted to green energy, especially for its datacentres and buildings around the world. Elsewhere Microsoft is engaged in carbon removal through new technologies – such as direct air capture; machinery that runs the air through it and takes the carbon out.

All this has meant that carbon emissions at Microsoft are going down by about 6% year-on-year.

However, much of this technology is still new and relatively untested. When asked whether such moves were a gamble, Smith replied: “I wouldn’t call it a gamble. But I do think it’s fair to call it bet.

“We are betting on the future.”

He went on to say that Microsoft will look inward over the years ahead, and the company isn’t yet in a position to adjudicate on what third parties get to use its technologies. Therefore it won’t prevent some of the worst polluters to continue using Microsoft products or services, but did admit that the company may decide not to partner too deeply with companies, or provide certain AI solutions, if they have been found to have no interest in improving their environmental footprint. Ahead of the summit, Microsoft pledged to use its voice “to encourage new carbon accounting standards”, using three central pledges:
To use a standardised approach to carbon monitoring across the world.
The adoption of these standards by all enterprises and using them for reporting.
Using automation and new technologies to measure emissions at scale.