Microsoft’s Carbon Offset Strategy: Making a Difference One Project at a Time
Robert Bernard, Chief Environmental Strategist
NOTE: This post by Rob Bernard, Microsoft's Chief Environmental Strategist, ran Tuesday, September 10 on theEnvironmental Sustainability team blog and we have reposted the entire entry below.
One of the great joys of my job, and something that motivates me to come to work every day, is the idea that our work can make a difference. In the past year, our team, along with NGO partners and carbon offset companies, have spent a tremendous amount of time trying to decide how best to leverage Microsoft's carbon neutral funds.
Today, I am pleased to share with you some of the projects we are funding. I believe we are helping drive not only a lower carbon future, but also are having a meaningful, positive impact on lives of people around the world.
First, a bit of context. In 2012, in an effort to further our commitment to reducing Microsoft's carbon impact, Microsoft pledged to become carbon neutral. To achieve our goal, we have implemented an internal carbon fee which we charge to business groups based on their output of carbon, primarily through electricity and air travel. These fees are used in a number of ways. Some are directed toward internal efficiency projects across the company to drive carbon emission reductions, while others are placed toward a combination of offset projects or Renewable Energy Certificates.
Carbon offsets are credits for reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that are achieved through resource conservation or renewable energy projects. We look for projects which may not have happened without the finance from the purchase of carbon credits. We've chosen to invest in carbon offsets because, in addition to helping us offset global emissions, our carbon offset strategy also helps us deliver the added economic, societal and educational benefits that Microsoft is already committed to providing around the world.
During our past fiscal year, Microsoft invested in 15 carbon offset projects, including projects in India, Peru, Guatemala, Mongolia, China, Brazil, Kenya, Cambodia, Turkey and the United States. Below are some examples of these projects and their positive impact to the local communities:
Brazil's Acre state is home to some of the world's most biodiverse habitats. Through our offset work, Microsoft is supporting a project which works with communities and local groups to provide alternative models of economic development which do not destroy the forest and protect the services that come from the ecosystem. It aims to conserve nearly 35,000 hectares (think 70,000 football or soccer fields) of pristine rainforest that is otherwise at risk of being converted into cattle pasture. By funding work with local families to support them in growing profitable crops, organically rearing pigs and using rotational cattle pastures, this project will avoid significant deforestation and improve local economies.
At the base of Mt. Kenya in the center of the country, a project with small-hold farmers combines reforestation with community development activities, enabling households to improve access to food and create additional sources of income beyond subsistence farming. The members receive annual payments for each tree planted and will receive increased income as the trees grow and sequester carbon. By helping farmers rethink their land management, the project not only reduces carbon but also helps farmers select trees that provide food, fuel wood from deadwood and small branch trimmings, and medicines. Training on better agricultural processes increases crop production and improves water supply and erosion control, and implementing beekeeping activities provides additional income stream and improved pollination and ecosystem health. And a deliberate approach to rotational leadership encourages gender equality. This community program model now includes 53,341 members and has resulted in over 6 million trees being planted.
In Mongolia, the poorest households spend up to 40 percent of their monthly winter income on heating fuels in Ulan Bator, the world's coldest capital. We are supporting communities with a project to provide energy efficient cookstoves and improved insulation for Gers, or yurts, reducing heating fuel requirements and costs by as much as 60%. The project works with small businesses in the area to manufacture, sell and install the five-layered insulation 'blankets' which provide an alternative to the traditional single or double outer layer of these portable, low-cost homes. Currently reaching more than 100,000 households, the project plans to double that impact in the next three years.
The People's Republic of China is the largest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitter in the world with approximately one third of its emissions from the production of goods for export. There is an increasing demand for energy and a reliance on fossil fuel to meet this demand. Developing technologies to supply clean, renewable energy to China helps lessen the country's impact on global climate change.
Over the past several years, major steps have been taken in China to develop its clean energy industry, and we're proud to support China's clean energy economy through investments in the Chifeng Wind Power Project. The 50 MW wind farm generates approximately 130,000 MWh of clean renewable electricity annually and over the course of its lifetime will save over 1 million tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted into the atmosphere. We've purchased voluntary carbon credits from the wind farm that correspond to the generation 125,000 MWh of clean, renewable electricity for China's Northeast Power Grid.
Carbon accounting standards are the backbone of carbon offsets in that they ensure the quality of the carbon offset projects and verify that the emission reductions occur and can be sold as carbon offset credits. All of Microsoft's carbon offsets have been independently validated and verified as 'Gold Standard' or 'Verified Carbon Standard' (VCS). In addition to offsetting our carbon footprint, we have selected projects which produce additional 'co-benefits' designed to generate valuable environmental, social and economic benefits.
Serving as a responsible global corporate citizen means addressing environmental, societal and economic challenges around the world. We are proud that we have been able to combine the achievement of carbon neutrality, management of our environmental impact and support for Microsoft's larger business and citizenship priorities in many of the countries where Microsoft does business. These projects will advance our corporate citizenship in the years to come, not only by reducing GHG emissions but by improving health, protecting ecosystems and providing income and employment.
Follow us on Twitter (@Microsoft_Green) for more environmental sustainability news and continue to check back on the Green Blog for updates on these projects and new projects added to our carbon offset program.
See more at the Microsoft Environmental Sustainability Team blog.