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Microsoft makes a groundbreaking deal that could challenge other corporations' commitments: 'I believe [it's] the largest ... ever'

Microsoft views these programs as essential to reaching its goal to be carbon negative by 2030.

Microsoft views these programs as essential to reaching its goal to be carbon negative by 2030.

Photo Credit: iStock

Tech giant Microsoft has made an agreement with startup Chestnut Carbon to secure carbon offset credits — the amount of which equates to the removal of up to 2.7 million tons of carbon from the atmosphere, Reuters reported. The credits aid in Microsoft's effort to become carbon negative by 2030.   

This 15-year deal, made in December, works a little differently than many other carbon offset purchases. Instead of merely preserving trees, according to Reuters, Chestnut plants new trees on what was previously farmland or land under other usage. Planting trees where forests never existed — or afforestation — has a more significant environmental benefit, according to Chestnut Carbon founder Ben Dell. 

"This is, I believe, the largest U.S. afforestation project ever registered," said Dell in an interview with Reuters.

Under the contract, Chestnut will give Microsoft carbon removal credits from trees planted in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley, the historic floodplain of the Mississippi River. The first credits will be given to Microsoft in three years, allowing time for the new trees to mature. 

According to the Carbon Offset Guide, a credit is a "transferable instrument" used to represent a pollution reduction of about 1.1 tons of carbon dioxide. 

Microsoft views carbon removal programs as essential to reaching its goal to be carbon negative — or contributing to the net removal of toxic heat-trapping gases from the atmosphere — by 2030. 

These removal techniques include, in addition to afforestation, direct air capture, meaning technology that extracts carbon gas directly from the atmosphere. By 2050, Microsoft aims to remove the equivalent of all the carbon created by the company since its founding in 1975, according to GreenBiz

Carbon offsets are a popular way for companies to signal their commitment to aiding the planet.  However, critics of the trading mechanism often say that it lacks transparency, and some argue that it is ineffective. For example, in November, Greenpeace called out Chinese oil and gas companies for buying liquid natural gas and labeling it "carbon neutral." 

According to Reuters, Microsoft declined to say how much it was paying for its carbon offset credits.

"We are excited to collaborate with Chestnut and its Sustainable Restoration Project for high-quality, nature-based solutions located in the United States," said Brian Marrs, senior director of energy and carbon removal at Microsoft, in a statement.

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