For Earth Day—Improving Efficiency and Sustainability Worldwide

Today is Earth Day, and it’s a particularly momentous occasion this year: representatives of more than 130 nations, including the United States, are gathered in New York City to sign the international climate accord (COP21) that was reached last December in Paris. As I wrote then, COP21 was a truly historic event for helping secure a hopefully greener future for our planet. As part of the changes needed to help us achieve the ambitions of COP21, we will need significant advances in technology and innovation.forest2

Every day at Microsoft, we’re using the power of our technology to minimize the environmental impact of our business operations and working with our customers to help them reduce their impact on the environment. From improving energy-savings in buildings through our work on Energy-Smart Buildings, to helping our partners, like M-KOPA Solar to leverage Azure and Machine Learning, Microsoft is making a difference. In the past two years alone, we’ve cut energy use by about 10 percent at our 125-building Redmond campus through the Energy-Smart Buildings initiative and a partnership with the City of Seattle has helped them achieve similar results.

Microsoft’s investments in driving cloud efficiency and our investments in driving our carbon neutral program provide customers with the option to move their IT needs into services that are both energy efficient and carbon neutral. Studies have shown that moving to Microsoft cloud services can help businesses reduce energy use for the same IT services by 30 to 90 percent per user versus running on-premise services.

And as part of our ongoing renewable energy commitment, we continue to develop new partnerships to bring more clean energy directly onto the grid. For example, we recently teamed up with the Commonwealth of Virginia and Dominion Virginia Power to launch an innovative public-private partnership that will bring 20 megawatts of new solar energy to that state.

Microsoft’s significant investments in renewable energy, made possible through funds generated by our internal carbon fee, have helped us to remain a carbon neutral company across our global operations since 2012. We are honored that our carbon fee was recognized by the UNFCCC at COP21 as an innovative carbon pricing model worthy of wider replication. And recently, we received a 2016 Climate Leadership Award for Organizational Leadership from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for our company-wide efforts to address climate change.

Our carbon fee has been a catalyst for driving sustainability, innovation and efficiency within Microsoft, and has helped us reduce our overall carbon emissions by 7.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in the first two years alone. It also has had an impact globally. Through the fee, Microsoft has helped improve the lives of more than 6 million people by investing in 35 carbon offset community projects around the world that focus on low-carbon economic development and provide opportunities for building sustainable livelihoods.

In celebration of Earth Day 2016 and in keeping with this year’s theme, “Trees for the Earth,” here are a few examples of Microsoft-funded projects that are enabling forest conservation and encouraging responsible forestry globally:

Photo Credit: Natural Capital Partners

Nisqually Improved Forest Management Project (Washington, USA): Located adjacent to Ashford, Washington, this 520-acre project is the most recent land acquisition of the Nisqually Land Trust to border the larger 2,500-acre Mount Rainier Gateway Reserve. In the absence of the project, much of this new parcel would have been managed under industrial timber practices and also subject to real estate conversion pressures. Instead, the Nisqually project will help protect old growth forest and restore habitat complexity by thinning young stands; thereby increasing plant diversity and tree growth rates, adding canopy layers and canopy cover. In addition, the project will help protect the habitats of endangered species such as northern spotted owls, marbled murrelets and Puget Sound Chinook Salmon. The Nisqually Indian Tribe has helped fund and plan conservation activities on the Reserve.

Photo Credit: Natural Capital Partners

Makira Project (Madagascar): Madagascar is considered to be one of the top five biodiversity hotspots in the world—more than 75% of all animal and plant species are endemic, while less than 10% of the country’s primary vegetation remains. The Makira project helps protect this area by limiting deforestation in 360,000 hectares of the Makira forest and working with communities in a ‘protection zone’ of 320,000 hectares. The project area supports 20 lemur species and critically important populations of the Fosa, Madagascar’s unique cat-like carnivore. The Makira project is helping fund long term forest conservation, improve land stewardship and support sustainable livelihood practices, including training in techniques such as rice irrigation, beekeeping, fish farming and cash-cropping.

Photo Credit: Natural Capital Partners

Rimba Raya Project (Borneo, Indonesia): The Rimba Raya project in Indonesia is designed to halt deforestation from palm oil concessions and unsustainable land use through the preservation of 47,000 hectares of carbon-dense tropical peat swamp forest in one of the world’s most biodiverse habitats in Borneo and home to the endangered Borneo Orangutan. The project is working with local communities to improve agriculture and fishing practices in order to build sustainable livelihoods and, through Microsoft’s support, has improved energy access through the distribution of solar lanterns to 1,623 homes and 14 community centers in the project area.

Helping to protect the world’s forests is one part of Microsoft’s holistic sustainability strategy and an important part of addressing global climate change. Check out all our carbon offset community projects around the world here, or learn more about environmental sustainability at Microsoft by visiting our website.

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