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article imageOp-Ed: Microsoft doubles-down on sustainability, but is it enough?

By Karen Graham     Apr 17, 2019 in Business
On Monday, Microsoft announced they would nearly double their internal carbon fee to $15 per metric ton on all carbon emissions, meaning the company will charge itself more for its emissions from operations, buildings, and data centers.
Among the bold plans outlined in the blog post, Microsoft also said the company was joining a group advocating for a national carbon tax and dividend.
While all this sounds great, the steps being taken are actually rather inadequate, considering that like Amazon, they are helping companies that are fueling the very carbon emissions driving climate change.
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Microsoft founder Bill Gates talks next to a container with human feces, a stunt to draw attention to the lack of toilets in developing countries around the world
But the internal carbon tax is a good move, according to Gizmodo, and doubling it is even better, But it really isn't enough to make much of a dent in global emissions. “This internal Microsoft ‘tax’ was established in 2012 to hold our business divisions financially responsible for reducing their carbon emissions,” the company wrote in a blog announcing the new price.
“The funds from this higher fee will both maintain Microsoft’s carbon neutrality and help us take a tech-first approach that will put sustainability at the core of every part of our business and technology to work for sustainable outcomes.”
The problem with Microsoft's internal carbon price is that it doesn't even come close to what the Report of the High-Level Commission on Carbon Prices, funded by the World Bank suggested for pricing carbon to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).
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Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella says the tech giant's investments in cloud computing and other areas have paid off in recent quarterly earnings
The report concludes that "Based on industry and policy experience, and the literature reviewed, duly considering the respective strengths and limitations of these information sources, this Commission concludes that the explicit carbon-price level consistent with achieving the Paris temperature target is at least $40–$80 per ton of carbon dioxide in 2020 and $50–$100 per ton of CO2 by 2030."
Microsoft joining a what?
Microsoft says that "public policy has an important role in creating enabling environments to accelerate the reduction of carbon emissions." That is why they are joining the Climate Leadership Council (CLC). The group is conservative-leaning and are advocates for a national carbon fee and dividend.
Although they have had backing from centrist Democrats and the more climate-friendly Republican members of Congress, legislation has not gone anywhere, even though bills have been introduced many times. So right now, it is doubtful that Microsoft joining the group will make much of a difference.
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The founding members of the Climate Leadership Council are Big Oil. They include Exxon, BP, Shell, and other companies. Microsoft — as well as Amazon — have provided technologies that speed up the production of fossil fuels.
As Gizmodo’s Brian Merchant wrote in February, while Microsoft and other tech giants “may put on a progressive air towards climate change and extol their own clean energy investments, they are in reality deep into the process of automating the climate crisis.”
It was also in February that ExxonMobil announced the company was "increasing the profitability" of the Permian Basin through a partnership with Microsoft. "The application of Microsoft technologies by ExxonMobil’s XTO Energy subsidiary – including Dynamics 365, Microsoft Azure, Machine Learning and the Internet of Things – is anticipated to improve capital efficiency and support Permian production growth by as much as 50,000 oil-equivalent barrels per day by 2025," read the press release.
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A Consol Energy Horizontal Gas Drilling Rig explores the Marcellus Shale outside the town of Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, US, on April 13, 2012
Mladen Antonov, AFP/File
GreenBiz is also saying Microsoft's transition to fuller sustainability will run into a few pot-holes in the road. For one thing, there has been a lot of backlash over the ethics of where and how AI is used, like for example in fossil fuel production and automation of certain jobs, affecting the labor market.
So it is fair to say that all the big tech companies are still in bed with the fossil fuel industry. And Microsoft has acknowledged that when it comes to supporting industries focused mainly on fossil fuels, change won't happen overnight. Dr. Lucas Joppa, the company’s first Chief Environmental Officer, said, "Any clear-eyed person recognizes that this happens over time," he said. "We will be relying on fossil fuels for some time."
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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