Working Together Toward a Carbon Neutral Future

| Elizabeth Willmott, Environmental Sustainability Program Manager, Microsoft

Microsoft and Yale lead the charge toward reducing emissions by pricing carbonBoston has seen record-setting snowstorms and exceptionally hot summers. Like other communities, the city is working to understand the potential effects of global climate change and minimize its impact by adopting sustainable policies and practices.

In 2015, Mayor Martin Walsh launched Climate Ready Boston, an initiative supported by the Boston Green Ribbon Commission, which aims to make Boston more resilient to climate change. In a recent State of the City address, Mayor Walsh called Boston “America’s climate champion,” with a target date of 2050 for reaching 100 percent carbon neutrality.

Today I have the honor of speaking at a Boston Green Ribbon Commission and Boston University (BU) event focused on carbon pricing and internal business practices in mitigating global climate change. As part of a panel — which includes Casey Pickett, Director of the Carbon Charge at Yale University, and Kenneth Pucker, Lecturer for the Questrom School of Business at Boston University — I’ll discuss how Microsoft’s carbon fee is helping us address our emissions and mainstream environmental responsibility within our business. You can watch a livestream of the event here starting at 4pm ET:

Our carbon fee approach has three primary components:

  • TRACK carbon emissions from the operation of our datacenters, labs, offices, manufacturing sites, and business air travel
  • CHARGE business groups a carbon fee for their respective emissions
  • INVEST beyond carbon neutrality to reduce emissions and accelerate local and global good

Microsoft is often asked how we establish our internal carbon price. We begin by projecting the volume of carbon emissions anticipated across our global operations. We then calculate the funds needed to meet our global carbon program objectives for the year and divide these costs by the projected carbon emissions to establish the carbon price, reflecting a dollar amount per mtCO2e:

The carbon price is then used to calculate and charge the cost to each department based on the percentage of emissions related to their operations. Over the last four years, our carbon program has help to reduce emissions by over 9 million mtCO2e, purchased more than 14 million megawatt-hours (MWh) of renewable energy, and impacted millions of peoples’ lives globally through our carbon offset community projects.

Our carbon price, our carbon neutrality commitment, and our emerging work on smart carbon tools are parts of a bigger aspiration we have to help drive global sustainable development and low-carbon business practices in society as a whole, beyond our own footprint.

Collaboration and shared learning are essential to this mission. We’re happy to share how our program is implemented and what’s working for Microsoft, while considering other programs and methods that help us create a low-carbon future. We look forward to expanding our work with all of our partners — including cities, universities, state and national governments, and nongovernmental organizations — toward these common goals.

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