Microsoft releases tool to calculate cloud-based carbon emissions

The company has also made further commitments to its goal to be carbon negative by 2030.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

Microsoft has announced a new product aimed at helping customers gain better transparency over their total carbon emissions.

The Microsoft Sustainability Calculator, available in a private preview, will give cloud customers oversight of the total carbon emissions resulting from their cloud usage.

"It's challenging to make and meet meaningful carbon reduction goals without the ability to measure carbon emissions," the company said.

"Using AI and advanced analytics, the Microsoft Sustainability Calculator provides actionable insights on how to reduce emissions, the ability to forecast emissions, and simplifies carbon reporting."

According to Microsoft, the calculator uses consistent and accurate carbon accounting to quantify the impact of Microsoft cloud services on a company's environmental footprint.

It calculates how moving additional applications and services to the cloud would help further reduce emissions and identifies and compiles reports for reporting requirements.

The tool follows Microsoft in January announcing its plan to be carbon negative by 2030.

The plan will see Microsoft take responsibility for its carbon footprint by being a voice for lowing emissions, being "grounded in science and math", investing in carbon reduction and removal technology, and providing transparency.

Adding to that plan, Microsoft, alongside AP Moeller, Danone, Maersk, Mercedes-Benz AG, Natura & Co, Nike, Starbucks, Unilever, and Wipro, as well as founding NGO member the Environmental Defense Fund, has launched a new coalition, Transform to Net Zero, which is aiming to accelerate business action toward a net zero carbon economy.

"The coalition will begin by bringing together industry leaders with some of the world's most ambitious carbon goals and will work to create playbooks on how to achieve net zero," Microsoft said.

See also: The Internet of Wild Things: Technology and the battle against biodiversity loss and climate change (TechRepublic cover story) | Download the free PDF version (TechRepublic)

The members will work to enable all businesses to achieve net zero emissions by: Sharing the business transformation each company is undertaking to achieve net zero emissions by 2050; delivering "robust" emission reductions across the business and value chains; working jointly with partners across supply chains; innovating and investing at scale in products, services, and business models that "amplify impact"; and engaging with policymakers to incentivise progress toward net zero.

"Importantly, the coalition will also focus on ensuring that the coming transition to a low-carbon economy is an equitable and just one," Microsoft added.

After announcing a $1 billion Climate Innovation Fund, Microsoft has made its first investment, pledging $50 million in Energy Impact Partners' (EIP) global platform for innovation of new technologies to transform the world's energy and transportation systems, which are two sectors Microsoft said account for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions.

Microsoft on Tuesday also announced a new partnership with renewable energy developer and investor Sol Systems, for 500 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy that includes investments in communities disproportionately affected by environmental challenges.

"This is the single largest renewable energy portfolio investment Microsoft has ever made, and is about a quarter of all of our previously procured renewable energy. Prior to this partnership, the total amount of renewable energy Microsoft has procured is approximately 1.9 gigawatts. To put it in context, 500 MW would power more than 70,000 homes in the US per year," the company wrote.

The work with Sol Systems is aiming to tie the purchasing of renewable energy to environmental justice and equity in under-resourced communities.

Microsoft said the partnership will develop a portfolio of 500MW of solar energy projects in the US in under-resourced communities, working with local leaders and prioritising minority and women-owned businesses; provide at least $50 million for community-led grants and investments that support educational programs, job and career training, habitat restoration, and programs that support access to clean energy and energy efficiency; focus on communities that are economically under-resourced, disproportionately impacted by pollution, and/or lack access to the benefits of the clean energy transition; and ensure that community benefits are realised with accountability measures, including using third-party evaluators to quantify and document social and environmental outcomes of the initiative.

The updates from Microsoft follow Apple on Tuesday announcing its own plan to become carbon neutral across its entire business by 2030. With this commitment, Apple said every device it sells will have "zero climate impact" in 10 years. 

Last month, Amazon launched a $2 billion fund to develop technologies to cut down greenhouse gases. The e-commerce giant is trying to clean up its supply chain as well. Salesforce is also committed to reaching 100% renewable energy by 2022 and delivering a carbon-neutral cloud to all customers.


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