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What if there was a giant computer model that could dramatically enhance our understanding of the environment and lead to policy decisions that better support conservation and biodiversity? A team of researchers at Microsoft Research are building just such a model that one day may eventually do just that, and have published an article today in Nature (paid access) arguing for other scientists to get on board and try doing the same.
When Drew Purves, head of Microsoft’s Computational Ecology and Environmental Science Group (CEES) and his colleagues at Microsoft Research in Cambridge, United Kingdom, began working with the United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Center (UNEP-WCMC), they didn’t know they would end up modeling life at global scales. “UNEP-WCMC is an international hub of important conservation activity, and we were pretty open-minded about exactly what we might do together,” says Purves. But they quickly realized that what was really needed was a general ecosystem model (GEM) – something that hasn’t been possible to date because of the vast scale involved. In turn, findings from a GEM could contribute to better informed policy decisions about biodiversity.
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.
As part of our commitment to sustainability, we are pleased to report that Microsoft’s supply chain for hardware and packaging (Manufacturing, Supply Chain and Information Services (MSCIS)) was ISO 14001 certified this month. Though we have had a longstanding commitment to supply chain sustainability, including a strict Supplier Code of Conduct that requires Microsoft suppliers to demonstrate social and environmental responsibility, this level of certification represents a new commitment to minimizing the environmental footprint of our hardware and packaging.
Today, Environmental Finance magazine published the results of its fifth annual Voluntary Carbon Market survey and recognized Microsoft for Best Corporate Offset Programme (registration required to access). In this survey, more than 720 companies nominated leading service providers active in the voluntary carbon markets. In light of the market’s growing maturity, Environmental Finance decided to include questions this year asking for nominations for the Best Corporate Offset Programme and the Best Offset Project. Voters were asked to make their selections on the basis of efficiency and speed of transaction, reliability, innovation, quality of service provided and influence on the market, not just the volume of transactions handled.
Last year we announced that Microsoft would make a commitment to become carbon neutral. The cornerstone of that commitment was an internal carbon fee that’s designed to increase the company’s costs for using carbon-based forms of energy. An intended result? Buying more renewable energy and becoming more energy efficient. Today, we are pleased to announce that we are moving forward with purchasing renewable energy directly. We have signed a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) for wind energy in Texas that will be funded in part by proceeds from Microsoft’s carbon fee.