Amazon Web Services (AWS) has launched a free tool for customers, which tracks the carbon footprint of their cloud consumption - and compares it to the estimated footprint of an on-premise data center.

The tool will let users measure and forecast the emissions associated with their AWS usage, and predict changes as they monitor workloads to the cloud, upgrade applications, and tidy up unused cloud resources. The announcement is part of the Climate Pledge announced in 2019, in which then-CEO Jeff Bezos promised Amazon would have net-zero carbon emissions by 2040.

AWS logo
– Sebastian Moss

216 other companies have signed the pledge.

Catching up with Google and Azure

A major part of the tool's purpose seems to be to promote the green credentials of AWS as an alternative to enterprise data centers, by comparing cloud emissions to the estimated output for the same resources provided in-house.

"As part of Amazon’s efforts to increase sustainability and reduce carbon emissions, we co-founded The Climate Pledge in 2019. Along with the 216 other signatories to the Pledge, we are committed to reaching net-zero carbon by 2040, 10 years ahead of the Paris Agreement," said AWS chief evangelist Jeff Barr in a blog post. "We are driving carbon out of our business in a multitude of ways."

Barr says that customers respond positively when he tells them that moving their applications to AWS will lower their carbon footprint, claiming cuts of 88 percent compared to enterprise data centers.

AWS is playing catch-up in visibility, however. Google launched a carbon footprint tool earlier in February, while Microsoft launched one for Azure in July 2021.

The Customer Carbon Footprint Tool is available in the AWS billing console, along with other usage reports. It reports down to a time period of one month, and shows emissions in summary, by geography, and by service. All emissions are quoted in metric tones of CO2 equivalent (MTCO2e), adhering to the Greenhouse Gas Protocol and ISO standards, and rounded to the nearest tenth of a metric ton.

Data is available from January 2020 and is updated quarterly.

The tool helpfully presents Amazon's guess at how much higher the emissions of the same resources would be if located in a theoretical enterprise data center, and maps on AWS' plans to use renewable energy, showing "how the AWS path to 100 percent renewable energy for our data centers will have a positive effect on [customers'] carbon emissions over time."

"If you are an AWS customer, then you are already benefiting from our efforts to decarbonize and to reach 100 percent renewable energy usage by 2025, five years ahead of our original target," said Barr.

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