Earlier this month Mateo Dugand, EMEA Regional Lead for Sustainability at Amazon Web Services (AWS), published a post on LinkedIn that has the potential to accelerate change.
AWS customers would now be given information about the carbon footprint of their use of AWS services. This doesn’t sound much, but it is crucial in the move towards net zero carbon. AWS customers will now know exactly how much carbon they are using through AWS, and will therefore be better informed about their own move to net zero. The AWS Customer Carbon Footprint Tool is expected to be available in early 2022.
Knowledge drives action
This is significant, because knowledge is essential to reporting—and reporting is an important part of signing up to the Climate Pledge. This is an initiative pioneered by Amazon itself, and its partner Global Optimism. Businesses that sign up to the Climate Pledge commit to reaching net zero carbon by 2040. This is ten years earlier than required by the Paris Agreement, but corresponds to the rate that climate science suggests is required. Amazon has, of course, signed its own pledge, and is taking firm action to move towards net zero.
AWS suggests that its customers have made an important move towards net zero by simply being AWS customers. Amazon is the world’s largest buyer of renewable energy—but then it is also one of the world’s largest suppliers of data centres. Having said that, a study found that moving from an on-premises data centre to AWS could help customers reduce their carbon footprint by up to 88%. This figure dropped slightly to 72% for the most efficient data centres—but that is still a substantial improvement.
The study suggested that AWS’s advantage lay in its infrastructure, which was 3.6 times more energy efficient than the median enterprise data centre. This was mostly through having more energy efficient servers, and using them more effectively. However, AWS is also a rapid adopter of new energy-efficient server technology.
Understanding the Climate Pledge
In total, 217 businesses have now signed up to the Climate Pledge. That may not sound like a lot, but as well as Amazon, it includes other massive companies like IBM, Microsoft, and Visa. The Climate Pledge is simple in its scope. Companies that sign up agree to three things:
- Regular reporting, which of course requires monitoring of greenhouse gas emissions on a regular basis. This is why Amazon’s latest announcement is so important;
- Carbon elimination, including actions such as improving efficiency, using renewable energy, and reducing use of materials; and
- Credible offsetting to compensate for any remaining emissions. ‘Credible’ here means additional, quantifiable, real and permanent offsets, which are also expected to benefit society as a whole.
However, the Climate Pledge is not only about tech businesses—or even banks. For example, in October this year, Seattle saw the opening of the Climate Pledge arena, designed to be the world’s first net-zero carbon certified arena. There is a ‘rain to rink’ system that captures rainwater for the ice rink. The electrical systems use no fossil fuels at all, and the arena is fully powered by renewable energy. The roof was reused from the previous arena, to reduce the carbon footprint of the materials. The catering will use local suppliers, and a seasonal approach to provision. Overall, the arena sets new standards for sustainability and net-zero standards for public events spaces.
Small steps add up
The Climate Pledge is also affiliated with Count Us In, a community-building initiative focused on climate change. This aims to overcome the idea that neither organisations nor individuals can do very much on their own. The campaign emphasises that if everyone takes a few small steps, the benefits soon add up. It also notes that individuals have the power to influence bigger businesses and brands by their purchasing decisions.
The campaign highlights 16 steps that everyone can take that will really make a difference. These include practical energy- and waste-reduction measures, such as insulating your home, flying less, shifting to electric vehicles, keeping clothes for longer, repairing and reusing goods, and walking and cycling more. They also include influencing others, for example, by writing to politicians, and speaking up at work.
The Climate Pledge and Count Us In both recognise that governments or even big business, cannot do it all. Like AWS’s customers, everyone has to start somewhere—but it is good to see cloud providers stepping up to help.