Microsoft has made a significant move in its commitment to carbon reduction by partnering with Grassroots Carbon, a leading provider of high-quality carbon removal credits. This collaboration marks Microsoft’s first investment in carbon credits generated from regeneratively managed grasslands. The credits represent additional carbon sequestration over a 30-year period and support regenerative ranching practices. Grassroots Carbon offers nature-based soil carbon removal solutions to entities looking to reduce their carbon emissions, while also providing ranchers with a transparent way of rewarding their regenerative practices through carbon credits.
Grasslands play a crucial role in combating climate change by serving as effective carbon storage reservoirs. They surpass other ecosystems due to the unique rooting characteristics of their vegetation. Grassland systems, adapted to frequent fire and grazing, have evolved with deep root systems that are essential for carbon storage. In fact, grasslands and shrubland carbon stocks make up 34% of the total carbon in the U.S. Great Plains region. The extensive root systems of native grassland species can reach depths of up to 15 feet, with estimates suggesting that 60% of soil carbon sequestration in grasslands occurs between 1 to 3 feet. Surprisingly, the majority of the biomass of these native species is located below ground, with about 90% of the carbon that grasslands store being in their soil and roots. The significance of deep root systems extends to the deposition of carbon into deeper soil layers, which is critical as the rate of carbon sequestration tends to increase with soil depth. Global studies also suggest that grassland diversity restoration initiatives could capture up to 7.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) per year, while improved grazing management could sequester another 699 million tons of CO2e annually.
Brad Tipper, CEO of Grassroots Carbon, expressed excitement about Microsoft’s inclusion of soil credits in their carbon removal strategy. He emphasized the importance of soil carbon storage as a crucial element of the climate solution. Improved soil health not only contributes to carbon reduction but also provides benefits such as enhanced water storage, erosion prevention, and improved grassland ecology. The investment in carbon credits directly supports ranchers implementing regenerative land management practices, with the majority of the profit from credit revenues going to these land managers. Currently, 40% of U.S. grasslands are used for livestock grazing, with the potential to sequester over 500 million tons of carbon dioxide annually. However, 95% of these grasslands are under conventional management, which depletes soil carbon. This is where Grassroots Carbon comes in, aiming to facilitate the transition to regenerative practices by offering opportunities for land managers to earn income from carbon storage. The project utilizes rigorous measurement, reporting, and verification (MRV) processes, employing PastureMap software to incentivize ranchers’ transition to rotational grazing. Microsoft sees this collaboration as part of its carbon removal strategy, contributing to the advancement of the soil carbon market through MRV innovations and the generation of large datasets of soil carbon and ecological data. Brad Tipper highlighted the broader impact of the deal, stating, “Soil carbon storage is an essential part of the climate solution, and our regenerative ranchers are trusted partners in that solution… Microsoft not only made a choice to reduce atmospheric carbon levels but to do so with impacts far beyond just carbon.” While the exact cost of the credits and the number Microsoft will purchase have not been disclosed, this groundbreaking collaboration signals a shift towards prioritizing soil carbon storage in climate strategies. By supporting regenerative ranching practices, this partnership not only reduces carbon emissions but also fosters ecosystem health and resilience.