In pursuit of previously announce goal of carbon negativity in 2030, Microsoft has now signed a 10-year agreement with Climeworks, a company that has developed direct air capture technology for carbon removal.
In 2020, Microsoft announced an ambitious goal and a plan to reduce and ultimately remove its carbon footprint. In brief, the company aims to be carbon negative by 2030; by 2050, Microsoft said it will remove from the environment all the carbon the company has emitted either directly or by electrical consumption since it was founded in 1975. To achieve these goals, Microsoft said it would work to remove their emissions - on top of reducing their emissions - and to that end, selected a portfolio of what it considered promising negative emissions technologies.
One year later, Climeworks’ carbon dioxide removal was the only DAC solution selected by Microsoft for its first carbon removal portfolio; now, Climeworks has become the company’s first long-term carbon removal supplier.
Under the 10-year carbon removal offtake agreement, Climeworks will permanently remove 10,000 tons of CO2 emissions from the atmosphere on Microsoft’s behalf - one of the largest DAC agreements ever signed, said the Switzerland-based DAC company.
Long-term commitments like this multi-year agreement are crucial for scaling the DAC industry, said Christoph Gebald, co-founder and co-CEO of Climeworks.
“Microsoft’s multi-year offtake agreement with Climeworks is an important step towards realizing the ‘net’ in net zero,” said Microsoft Chief Environmental Officer Lucas Joppa. “Our experience in purchasing renewable energy shows that long-term agreements can provide an essential foundation for society's race to scale new decarbonization technologies.”
Climeworks develops, builds and operates direct air capture machines consisting of modular CO₂ collectors that can be stacked to build machines of any size. The machines are powered solely by renewable energy or energy-from-waste. The air-captured carbon dioxide can either be recycled and used as a raw material, or completely removed from the air by safely storing it.
The company operates a flagship facility - Orca - near the Hellisheiði geothermal power plant in Iceland. That facility, currently the largest direct air capture and storage plant in the world, removes 4,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year from the atmosphere. The Icelandic company Carbfix mixes this carbon dioxide with water and pumps it deep underground. Through natural mineralization, the carbon dioxide reacts with the basalt rock and turns into stone within a few years.
Climeworks announced last month that a second large-scale DAC plant - Mommoth- will be built in Iceland in 18-24 months, and have capacity to remove 36,000 tonnes of CO2 per year from the air.
Direct air capture is key to mitigating climate change. The IPCC estimates that by mid-century, we will need to remove 3-12 billion tons of CO2 from the air every year in order to limit global warming to 1.5°C. Direct air capture and storage is expected to contribute a significant part, with a potential of removing up to 310 billion tons of CO2 by 2100 to limit global warming to 1.5°C with no or limited overshoot.