In my role as Chief Environmental Strategist for Microsoft, I am excited to be in New York this week as we take part in the activities of Climate Week 2015. Climate Week is a great opportunity to meet with policymakers, corporate leaders and individuals to explore new opportunities to drive meaningful action by working together.
This year, I’m honored to represent Microsoft as we stand alongside the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to help launch and support an important new program: the Climate Neutral Now Initiative. This initiative will make it easier for organizations, governments and individuals to measure, reduce and offset their greenhouse gas emissions through an online platform. Voluntary approaches like these have huge potential to drive change – in reducing carbon emissions and accelerating the availability of renewable energy, and also in improving the lives of people around the world.
The tools offered by the UNFCCC are great examples of how information and systems can be used to reduce energy use and emissions, and better manage carbon challenges. We are particularly proud that Microsoft Azure is helping to power the carbon exchange mechanism for the Climate Neutral Now initiative. By helping individuals, organizations and governments assess their footprint, make smart decisions about how to reduce and offset their emissions, and connect people and organizations across the globe, the technology can help improve and accelerate the impact that the Climate Neutral Now Initiative is driving
As part of our growing commitment to renewable energy and sustainability, we are also announcing that Microsoft will become a signatory to the Buyers’ Principles, an initiative led by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) aimed at making renewable energy more affordable and accessible.
These initiatives are aligned with Microsoft’s commitments to carbon neutrality and to powering our operations with renewable energy. In 2012, we made an ongoing companywide commitment to carbon neutrality. To help achieve that goal, we established an internal carbon fee to hold our business groups financially responsible for the cost of reducing and compensating for their carbon emissions. At left, you can see a diagram of our carbon fee program.
With the funds collected through the carbon fee, we have purchased more than 10 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green power, reduced our emissions by 7.5 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent, and reached more than 3.2 million people through carbon offset community projects.
These projects don’t just offset carbon; they also provide sustainable jobs, healthcare, education, clean water, and empowerment opportunities to millions worldwide while helping build and accelerate low-carbon economies. One example pictured here is the Menu and Nanyuki Community Reforestation Project in Kenya, where the offset program integrates reforestation to sequester carbon with community development activities, including improved access to food and the creation of additional sources of income beyond subsistence farming.
Of course, the global climate challenge is bigger than any one company or country or individual can tackle alone. That is why partnerships are so important. It is also why we recently expanded our cities work, through our CityNext program, to address Sustainable Cities opportunities. With over 50 percent of the world’s population, 80 percent of global economic output, and around 70 percent of global energy use and energy-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions coming from cities, we recognize the need to help empower cities to better leverage technology to reduce their environmental impact while simultaneously reducing costs and improving the lives of people living in cities.
As we look at issues related to climate change, it is clear that technology has an important role to play. We see tremendous opportunity for Microsoft and our growing ecosystem of partners to work with governments and organizations globally to leverage the power of cloud, Big Data, mobile and social technologies to accelerate the wave of innovation which will transform society’s understanding of and interaction with our natural environment.
While today’s announcements are good steps towards addressing climate change, we know there is much more work to be done. We are proud to partner with the UNFCCC, support WRI’s and WWF’s Buyers Principles and will continue working with the UNFCCC, software partners, non-profits, scientists, peers and organizations around the world to help build a more sustainable future. I invite you to learn more by following our work at the Microsoft Green blog and on Twitter at @Microsoft_Green.