Where does the industry stand when it comes to Carbon Footprint?
Today, the term “carbon footprint” is often used as shorthand for the amount of carbon (usually in tonnes) being emitted by an activity or organization. The carbon footprint is also an important component of the Ecological Footprint, since it is one competing demand for biologically productive space. Carbon emissions from burning fossil fuel accumulate in the atmosphere if there is not enough biocapacity dedicated to absorb these emissions. Therefore, when the carbon footprint is reported within the context of the total Ecological Footprint, the tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions are expressed as the amount of productive land area required to sequester those carbon dioxide emissions. This tells us how much biocapacity is necessary to neutralize the emissions from burning fossil fuels.
Measuring the carbon footprint in land area does not imply that carbon sequestration is is the sole solution to the carbon dilemma. It just shows how much biocapacity is needed to take care of our untreated carbon waste and avoid a carbon build-up in the atmosphere. Measuring it in this way enables us to address the climate change challenge in a holistic way that does not simply shift the burden from one natural system to another. In fact, the climate problem emerges because the planet does not have enough biocapacity to neutralize all the carbon dioxide from fossil fuel and provide for all other demands.
This framework also shows climate change in a greater context—one which unites all of the ecological threats we face today. Climate change, deforestation, overgrazing, fisheries collapse, food insecurity, and the rapid extinction of species are all part of a single, over-arching problem: Humanity is simply demanding more from the Earth than it can provide. By focusing on the single issue, we can address all of its symptoms, rather than solving one problem at the cost of another. Also, it makes the self-interest to act far more obvious.
The carbon Footprint is currently 60 percent of humanity’s overall Ecological Footprint and its most rapidly growing component. Humanity’s carbon Footprint has increased 11-fold since 1961. Reducing humanity’s carbon Footprint is the most essential step we can take to end overshoot and live within the means of our planet.
(Source: Global Footprint Network)
What can the industry do?
CO2 emissions in the Netherlands have to be half down in 2030 and in 2050 even by 95 percent. This has been decided by the Dutch Government in response to the Paris climate agreement. Some examples of Dutch and/or internationally oriented companies / enterprises regarding their thoughts on the Carbon Footprint.
- KLM: https://flyresponsibly.klm.com/en#home
- SHELL: https://www.duurzaambedrijfsleven.nl/ict/32267/shell-asperitas-datacenters
- NLDC: https://www.duurzaambedrijfsleven.nl/energie/32211/datacenter-uitwisseling-warmte
- Google: https://www.duurzaambedrijfsleven.nl/circulaire-economie/32117/google-deurbel-thermostaat
- Arriva: https://www.duurzaambedrijfsleven.nl/mobiliteit/31879/busbedrijf-zuiniger-software
Where do our Partners stand on this Carbon Footprint?
The greenhouse gas CO2 is one of the main causes of climate change. To preserve the planet for future generations, carbon dioxide emissions must be drastically reduced over the coming decades.
Any analysis on the climate impact of a data center should consider resource utilization and energy efficiency, in addition to power mix. Carbon emissions are a factor of three things: the number of servers running, the total energy required to power each server, and the carbon intensity of energy sources used to power these servers. A recent blog post by Jeff Barr outlines why using fewer servers and powering them more efficiently is at least as important to reducing the carbon impact of a company’s data center as its power mix.
A typical large-scale cloud provider achieves approximately 65% server utilization rates versus 15% on-premises, which means when companies move to the cloud, they typically provision fewer than ¼ of the servers than they would on-premises.1 In addition, a typical on-premises data center is 29% less efficient in their use of power compared to a typical large-scale cloud provider that uses world-class facility designs, cooling systems, and workload-optimized equipment.2 Adding these together (fewer servers used plus more power efficient servers), customers only need 16% of the power as compared to on-premises infrastructure. This represents an 84% reduction in the amount of power required.
This massive improvement in energy efficiency drives a huge reduction in climate impact because less energy consumed means fewer carbon emissions. The climate impact improvements get even better when you factor in that the average corporate data center has a dirtier power mix than the typical large-scale cloud provider. Large-scale cloud providers (AWS included) use a power mix that is 28% less carbon intense than the global average.
Combining the fraction of energy required with a less carbon-intense power mix, customers can end up with a reduction in carbon emissions of 88% by moving to the cloud and AWS.
At Google, we strive to build sustainability into everything we do.
Our operations are designed to get the most out of technology, without using more resources. Creating efficient data centers, accelerating our transition to renewable energy, creating sustainable workplaces, and empowering users with technology help ensure a cleaner, healthier future for generations to come.
Efficient data centers help us better serve our users, in a more sustainable way.
For more than a decade, we’ve worked to make Google data centers some of the most efficient in the world by designing, building, and operating each one to maximize efficient use of energy, water, and materials, improving their environmental performance even as demand for our products has risen.
Empowering users with technology means we can do more, together.
We meet the challenges posed by climate change by working to empower everyone—businesses, governments, nonprofit organizations, communities, and individuals—to use Google technology to create a more sustainable world.
Our commitment to sustainability:
Accelerating global progress towards a more sustainable future
We focus on the areas where we can have the greatest impact, which include carbon, energy, water and waste, across all the work we do.
Products, services, and devices
The investments we make in sustainability carry through to our products, services and devices. We design our devices from Surface to Xbox, with emphasis on eco-friendly materials. Our cloud and AI services help businesses cut energy consumption, reduce physical footprints, and design sustainable products themselves.
In 2012, Microsoft voluntarily introduced an internal carbon fee that holds its business units financially accountable for their carbon emissions. It’s a financial model that puts an incremental fee on carbon emissions associated with the company’s global operations for data centers, offices, labs, manufacturing, and business air travel. The carbon fee is set each year based on the estimated cost of internal efficiency, renewable energy, carbon offset, e-waste recycling, and other innovative research projects to be carbon neutral. The carbon fee is already changing behavior at Microsoft – because its business units now include the cost of carbon into their annual budgets, they have a real incentive to reduce their emissions.
Large companies typically have a substantial carbon footprint from their global operations, production and supply chain. Many private sector companies recognize they need to be part of the solution and in fact, sustainability strategies was one of the top five global challenges in the 2015 CEO Challenge survey. Some jurisdictions are already imposing carbon taxes, including countries such as Ireland and Chile, and regions such as British Columbia.
In 2012, Microsoft made a companywide commitment to become carbon neutral. In order to meet that goal, Microsoft chose to implement a carbon fee that allocates the cost of becoming carbon neutral across its major business units. Each quarter, Microsoft tracks and analyzes its energy use from data centers, offices, labs and manufacturing, as well as emissions associated with business air travel. Those kilowatt-hours and miles and class of air travel are then converted into tonnes of carbon.
Microsoft offsets those emissions by investing in projects that reduce carbon emissions, recycle e-waste, generate green power, make buildings more efficient, and offset emissions through community projects around the world. Each business unit contributes a proportional amount to the carbon fund based on their emissions and this year’s carbon price.
Each business unit reduces electricity-related emissions directly (such as through efficiency projects) where practical. Carbon neutrality for actual electricity-related emission is achieved through green power investments such as renewable power purchase agreements and renewable energy certificates. For emissions from air travel, fuel consumption (such as from backup generators) and any electricity-based emissions that can’t be mitigated through qualifying green power investments, Microsoft then turns to a portfolio of community investments in carbon offset projects.
Helping the planet
Microsoft focuses on projects that will accelerate climate friendly innovation. From developing new ideas internally—with the aim of piloting and proving their value before sharing them more broadly—to investing funds in support of external projects and research, Microsoft is helping the world transition to a low-carbon future while addressing its carbon footprint.
By using funds collected from the carbon fee, Microsoft sponsors energy efficiency projects, renewable energy projects, sustainable e-waste recycling projects, and carbon offset sustainable community projects. For example, Microsoft purchased more than 3 billion kWh of renewable energy (equivalent to 100% of its global electricity use), and has a carbon offset project portfolio representing more than 600,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.
Microsoft estimates that the field driven internal carbon reduction projects funded in the last two years have not only driven broad awareness of the need to conserve, but will lead to lifetime carbon reductions of 31,000 megatonnes of CO2e. This is equivalent of the emissions produced from driving an average passenger vehicle over 70 million miles or from the average annual electricity consumption of approximately 3,000 homes.
Since the start of the program, Microsoft has funded more than 60 projects in 23 countries by investing more than USD 4 million. One of the carbon offset projects it funds is the Mongolian Insulation and Efficient Stoves project. In addition to reducing heating fuel costs by up to 60%, the project helps reduce indoor smoke by at least 80% and has a significant impact on the health and well-being of 167,000 households.
Another carbon offset project that Microsoft funds is the Guatemala Water Filtration & Cookstoves project. The water filter removes 99% of pathogens, and the improved cookstoves reduce harmful indoor air pollution. In addition to the health and environmental benefits of reducing deforestation for fuel use, the project employs 800 people and empowers women by saving them time cooking and collecting wood.
The Microsoft carbon fee model is simple, repeatable, and scalable. It allows for environmental action to be deeply and broadly embedded in the financial and executive decision making structure across the organization. The model is based on consumption, is not hard to manage and does not require complicated credits to track or trade. This simplicity makes the model transferable and it can easily be adapted to fit other organizations. The basic formula is universal: carbon emissions multiplied by carbon price equals the carbon fee. Microsoft has created a detailed guide for any organization to replicate its model at http://aka.ms/carbon.