The Climate Leadership Race: Microsoft and Amazon

The competition among the two Seattle-based tech giants seems to be headed in an unexpected direction: climate leadership. On September 19, 2019, Amazon announced its Climate Pledge. Today, Microsoft outlined its climate initiative. We call it the Climate Moonshot, inspired by Microsoft President Brad Smith’s blog post, in which he noted: “This is a bold bet — a moonshot — for Microsoft. And it will need to become a moonshot for the world.”

Recall the key aspects of Amazon’s Pledge: 100% renewable energy by 2030, net-zero emissions by 2040, the induction of 100,000 electric vehicles into the delivery fleet, a $100 million investment in reforestation projects, and a website to track and report on these commitments.

The Climate Moonshot wants Microsoft to shift to renewable energy for its buildings and data centers by 2025, become “carbon negative” by 2030, and remove its historical carbon emissions from the atmosphere by 2050. Carbon negative means that Microsoft will remove more carbon from the atmosphere than emitted by its direct activities and its entire supply chain.

Microsoft’s plan is more ambitious than Amazon’s. Microsoft will transition faster to renewable energy for buildings and data centers (by 2025 versus 2030 for Amazon) and to net-zero emissions (by 2030 versus 2040 for Amazon). Moreover, while Amazon committed to net-zero emissions for its operations only, Microsoft’s plan will cover its entire supply chain. Even more remarkably, unlike Amazon, Microsoft takes responsibility for its historical emissions, with the pledge to remove them from the atmosphere by 2050. In sum, Microsoft is ahead of Amazon in Round 1 of the climate marathon.

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