Microsoft has signed a deal for 362,000 tons of carbon removal credits, delivered by planting new forests in the US.

The cloud giant has signed a 15-year agreement to support the largest certified afforestation project in the US, being carried out by Chestnut Carbon, a nature-based carbon removal company, which has eight parcels of land mostly in Arkansas.

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– Chestnut Carbon

Chestnut is financed by Kimmeridge Energy Management.

Removal of carbon from the atmosphere is seen as essential to meet net-zero targets, and Microsoft has pledged to be carbon-negative by 2030.

Carbon credits and offsets backed by forestry projects have come in for criticism, as environmentalists point out that claims to leave trees unfelled do not create additional forests, and may even be temporary.

Chestnut points out that it is making new forests on land previously used for other purposes, and are "additional, verifiable and biodiverse to accelerate the path to net zero across a range of industries."

Its projects are certified by The Gold Standard, and Chestnut says it "stands behind the durability of its carbon sequestration through long-term conservation of the land, planting biodiversity and risk mitigation practices."

Microsoft has invested heavily in a diverse range of carbon removal techniques, most recently 32,000 tons of credits from a biochar project in Bolivia. Previously, the company bought 10,000 tons of biochar credits from Virginia-based Carbon Streaming.

The company also has a 300,000-ton deal with Heirloom, which will remove carbon directly from the air onto sheets of calcium oxide, and two other electrical direct capture deals: 10,000 tons from Climeworks, and an undisclosed amount captured in Wyoming by Carbon Capture.

Chestnut says the 15-year offtake will deliver 362,000 tons of projected carbon removal from its Sustainable Restoration Project Phase I, and up to 2.7 million tons in aggregate across subsequent phases.

The company has plans to expand to 500,000 acres and 100 million tons of carbon removal.

Ben Dell, CEO of Chestnut and managing partner of Kimmeridge said, "We are actively building out our platform to meet demand from the most discerning customers and look forward to announcing additional blue-chip partnerships in the near future."

"Microsoft's 15-year purchase agreement with Chestnut Carbon for afforestation-based carbon removal credits is a positive step towards Microsoft's carbon-negative goals," said Brian Marrs, senior director of energy and carbon removal at Microsoft.