Microsoft turns to Climeworks to deliver carbon capture techology
Microsoft has turned to Climeworks' carbon dioxide removal technology as one of the key measures that will help with a mission to reach negative emissions by 2030 and remove the company's historic emissions by 2050.
Swiss company Climeworks specialises in carbon dioxide air capture technology. The process sees CO2 captured from air in Hellisheiði, Iceland through direct air capture technology. The CO2 is then mixed with water, pumped underground where it is stored permanently once a mineralisation process is completed.
Climeworks has this week been approved by Microsoft to provide solutions to the tech giant’s overarching sustainability commitment.
Mircosoft’s carbon-negative commitment was announced in January 2020, and will see Microsoft reduce its emissions by more than 50% across its entire business and supply chain by 2030 while investing to remove more carbon than it emits annually. Microsoft has been offsetting its emissions to reach net-zero since 2012 and claimed that the new target is evidence of its belief that this approach is no longer sufficient to tackle the climate crisis.
“Being part of Microsoft’s CO2 removal portfolio is a game-changer. Not only does Microsoft’s approach remove their own emissions, but they are also inspiring other businesses to invest in science-based and scalable solutions that have the potential to make a significant difference in the fight against climate change — like Climeworks’ carbon dioxide removal,” Climeworks’ co-founder Christoph Gebald said.
Selected alongside Climeworks is Finland-based Puro.earth – considered the world’s first voluntary market for verified carbon removal. Puro.earth wants to create a carbon removal market worth as much as $300bn and remove 10 gigatonnes of carbon annually by 2050.
The three projects, from Puro.earth suppliers Carbofex, ECHO2 and Carbon Cycle, remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through production of biochar, allowing carbon to be stored in soil for hundreds of years.
“We are proud to help Microsoft in fulfilling their pledge to become carbon negative by 2030. Our mission is to mobilize income that helps suppliers accelerate the development of carbon removal technologies and with a high-profile company like Microsoft betting on the potential of industrial carbon removal to impact the climate, carbon removal scaling is taking off,” Puro.earth’s co-founder Antti Vihavainen said.
Given the controversies that continue to surround carbon offsetting and insetting projects, Microsoft has vowed to get all projects “rigorously vetted and verified” by third parties, including advisory firm Carbon Direct and NGO Winrock International.
Climeworks is one of the corporate members of the Coalition for Negative Emissions, which has penned a letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, calling for the UK Government to introduce policies that will support the technologies required to capture carbon and deliver negative emissions scenarios for some of the highest-emitting sectors.
Scientists believe that up to 10 billion tonnes of CO2 will need to be removed every year by mid-Century to meet the Paris Agreement. This can be achieved through a mixture of natural and technological climate solutions.
The announcement arrives just days after Microsoft published its first standalone sustainability report.
The report reveals that Microsoft met and surpassed a target to secure the removal of one million metric tonnes of carbon – a target that was set for October 2020. In fact, Microsoft reduced emissions across all scopes by almost 600,000 tonnes for the 2020 financial year.
Analysing progress against its long-term carbon goals, the report also notes that Microsoft has extended an internal carbon fee to cover Scope 3 emissions, while also updating a supplier code of conduct to require disclosure on emissions.
In addition, the report notes that $50m was invested in “Energy Impact Partners” and a sustainability calculator was created to offer data on emissions to customers.
“Climeworks' direct air capture technology will serve as a key component of our carbon removal efforts. Their application set a high bar for technical rigor - especially the permanence of their solution, and we are looking forward to helping further scale their work with this purchase," Microsoft's carbon programme manager Elizabeth Willmott said.