Supporting Global Action on Climate Change

| Michelle Patron, Director of Sustainability Policy

(Photo credit: NASA archives)

Next month, countries around the world will gather in Morocco for the annual U.N. meeting on climate change. Since the Paris Climate Agreement was approved by 190 world leaders last December, diplomats have been hard at work developing new global initiatives to support the carbon reduction targets embedded in the Paris Agreement.

In fact, over the past month, countries have achieved three important global policy milestones: controlling aviation emissions, reducing hydrofluorocarbons (HFC super pollutants) and accelerating entry into force of the Paris Agreement. At Microsoft, we are proud to support these efforts and demonstrate how corporations can contribute to the collective progress on climate change.

Reduction in Aviation Emissions
Earlier this month, the U.N. International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) approved a market-based mechanism to reduce global aviation emissions. This will help airlines and governments achieve the target of freezing global aviation carbon emissions by 2020 and allow airlines to offset post-2020 emission growth through reductions in other sectors. The ICAO agreement is the first global program to cover carbon emissions in an entire sector of the global economy. The market-based approach provides companies flexibility to develop a cost-effective strategy to reduce emissions. While the first phase of the program is voluntary, 65 countries representing 85 percent of global airline emissions, including China and the U.S., have already committed to participate.

We believe this new approach has a great chance to succeed in reducing emissions, based on our own experience with a carbon fee and offset program. Since 2012, Microsoft’s operations have been carbon neutral. We charge each business unit an internal carbon fee for the emissions from their energy consumption and air travel. Our carbon fee and offset program has reduced the company’s carbon emissions by 9.5 million metric tons, and supported projects around the world that have benefited more than 7 million people. We welcome the opportunity to work with our public and private sector partners in the aviation sector to share and build on our experience.

Montreal Protocol Phasedown of Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)

On Saturday, nearly 200 countries approved an amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer that phases down the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), potent greenhouse gas that are rapidly becoming a major contributor to global climate change. The amendment includes an early reduction for Article 2 countries and a freeze date for Article 5 countries to reduce the use of HFCs and transition to more sustainable alternatives. This action could avoid up to 0.5 degrees Celsius of warming by the end of the century, making the Montreal Protocol an important step in implementing the goals in the Paris Agreement to limit global temperature rise.

We’ve already taken steps to address Montreal Protocol covered substances in our operations and supply chain. Microsoft has established a strong company policy on prohibiting the use of Ozone Depleting Substances, consistent with the Montreal Protocol and other relevant U.S. regulations. Earlier this year Microsoft joined 500+ countries, cities and companies to call for an amendment to the Montreal Protocol to phase out HFCs.

Paris Agreement Entry into Force

This year, on November 4, the Paris Agreement will formally enter into force. The process was triggered after more than 55 countries, representing over 55 percent of global greenhouse emissions, deposited their instrument of ratification, approval, acceptance or accession to the U.N. As a result, the Morocco climate meeting will be the first meeting of the party under the Paris Agreement, and countries will now concentrate on implementing their national climate targets and ratcheting up action over time.

Microsoft is deeply engaged in efforts to address climate change, and was a strong supporter of the Paris agreement. We were one of the founding signatories of the American Business Act on Climate initiative. We also helped launch the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)’s Climate Neutral Now initiative, aimed at making it easier for people to measure, reduce and offset their emissions through an online cloud platform – built on Microsoft Azure. As a supporter of the Paris Agreement and a company committed to sustainability, we recognize the importance of taking responsibility for our own emissions and working towards a more sustainable, low-carbon future.

What’s Next

There’s been incredible progress over the past year and, particularly in the past month, towards addressing climate change on the global level. Now, we must turn to the hard work of finding and implementing solutions that will empower countries, companies and individuals to reduce their carbon footprint.

These solutions require that we work together, and take responsibility to advance sustainability in our governments, operations, communities and homes. Technology, specifically the cloud and cloud-enabled solutions such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, are powerful tools that can help drive change at scale. We believe that these cloud based tools will be at the core of strategies to reduce emissions, integrate renewable energy into the grid, and enable more sustainable economic growth.

From our devices to our cloud, Microsoft is using the power of technology to minimize the environmental impact of our products and improve the efficiency of our global business operations. We have invested heavily in research and development to improve energy efficiency, have developed strict environmental criteria for our devices and supply chain, and set ambitious clean energy targets for our datacenters. To help us achieve even more, we support public policies that provide innovative and global solutions to strengthen local communities, protect our environment and support our business. We look forward to working with governments and our partners from around the world to make progress on this critical issue in the months and years ahead.

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