Jan 28, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Microsoft backs direct air capture player Climeworks

a windows logo over a globe
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Microsoft this morning disclosed investments in more climate-related companies as part of efforts to make good on its year-old pledge to become "carbon negative" by 2030.

Driving the news: One company the tech behemoth is staking is Climeworks, a firm looking to scale up deployment of direct air capture technology that removes CO2 already in the atmosphere.

  • The size of the investment was not disclosed. Microsoft also revealed that it's a customer of the Swiss firm.
  • "Through Microsoft’s purchase of negative emissions from Climeworks, we will permanently remove 1,400 metric tons of carbon," Lucas Joppa, Microsoft's top environmental official, said in a blog post.

Why it matters: It's part of a growing move by deep-pocketed companies and investors to back the fledgling direct air capture sector — and pay them for carbon removal.

The volumes currently being removed are a tiny drop in the bucket, but DAC could be among the technologies that eventually join the list of meaningful tools against warming.

  • Another firm, Carbon Engineering, counts backers including Bill Gates, Chevron and Occidental Petroleum.
  • Climeworks' other investors and customers include e-commerce heavyweight Shopify.

The big picture: The Climeworks investment is among several updates this morning from Microsoft on its climate efforts, including two other new outlays from its $1 billion Climate Innovation Fund.

  • It is backing the early-stage, climate-focused VC fund Congruent Ventures, as well as the foundation-backed Southeast Asia Clean Energy Facility, which Joppa notes "aims to drive market adoption of existing technologies in underfunded markets."

By the numbers: Microsoft also tallied some of what's happened since its pledge last January.

  • President Brad Smith said in a separate post that Microsoft cut its overall emissions by 6%, or roughly 730,000 metric tons.
  • "We have purchased the removal of 1.3 million metric tons of carbon from 26 projects around the world," he said.
  • Bloomberg looks more at those efforts and some of their hurdles here.
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