Immediate steps that Asia-Pacific governments can take to decarbonize via the cloud
The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, a sobering “code red for humanity,” shows just how much—and how quickly—we need to change to mitigate the worst effects of climate change. I take hope from recent shifts seen across the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, however, particularly how APAC governments, companies, and organizations of all sizes are accelerating digital transformation and decarbonization efforts.
In APAC—home to nearly 60% of the world’s population, 100 of the smoggiest cities, and challenging markets for renewable energy investment—it is vital that digital strategies reinforce sustainable development, and vice versa. Amazon has supported similar efforts in Europe, where the European Commission approaches digitalization and decarbonization as mutually-reinforcing ‘twin transitions,’ and we stand ready to do the same across APAC.
At Amazon Web Services (AWS), we see cloud computing as enabling accelerated innovation on the path to net zero carbon. That is why we recently hosted our first public webinar on Meeting Sustainability and Climate Goals with the Cloud in APAC, bringing together industry, government, and other key stakeholders, and featuring experts from 451 Research, Environment Resource Management, Intel, Singapore’s Economic Development Board, and AWS customers DBS Bank and Canva.
Here are four overarching lessons for APAC policymakers:
1. Adopting cloud-first policies and promoting cloud migration has immediate decarbonization benefits
A recent study by 451 Research estimates that cloud infrastructure is five times more efficient than APAC on-premises data centers, such that moving IT workloads to the cloud would immediately reduce energy use and associated carbon emissions by 78% across APAC.
Customers benefit from the sustainability of our cloud infrastructure when migrating to AWS Cloud. We also work closely with customers to help them architect sustainably in the cloud and to meet their sustainability goals through the cloud.
To dramatically and rapidly reduce the carbon footprint of public and private sector IT workloads, we urge policymakers to prioritize clear and effective cloud-first, cloud-native, and cloud migration policies today.
2. Removing barriers to cloud adoption will accelerate sustainability innovation, particularly in regulated industries
Regulated industries, such as energy, financial services, and telecommunications, present some of the greatest opportunities for scaling sustainable solutions, given their society-wide reach. But they also face regulatory barriers to greater use of cloud computing.
According to the International Energy Agency, cloud-enabled technologies—such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), Internet of Things (IoT) and edge computing—will be critical to accelerating systemic transformations at scale. In APAC, AWS already supports countless examples of cloud-enabled, customer-led sustainability innovation, including:
- In power grid management, with Vector’s use of AWS IoT, ML and big data analytics to facilitate efficient grid management and greater integration of clean energy across Australia and New Zealand;
- In electricity retail services, with TRENDE’s use of the AWS Cloud to expand solar power offerings and establish peer-to-peer electricity trading for Japanese residential customers;
- The aviation sector, with Qantas’s use of AWS ML for real-time flight path optimization, enabling more than 50,000 tonnes of carbon emissions reduction per year;
- In waste management, with South Korean company ECube’s use of AWS ML to maximize smart trash bin technologies’ capacity and minimize emissions from transportation and logistics;
- And in water utilities and management, with WeGOT Utility Solutions’ use of AWS IoT-enabled smart water tracking to save billions of litres of water from going down the drain in India and beyond.
To facilitate further innovation, we urge policymakers to set clear policies promoting cloud adoption and remove barriers to greater use of cloud in regulated industries.
3. Set ambitious decarbonization goals, and collaborate with the private sector to achieve them
We welcome the increasingly ambitious climate targets seen across APAC today, look forward to even greater ambition going forward, and encourage public-private collaboration and partnership to accelerate these efforts ahead of the Paris Agreement timeline.
At Amazon, we have our own ambitions for achieving net-zero carbon across our business worldwide by 2040, a decade ahead of the Paris Agreement. We stand ready to support similar ambitions by regional governments, including through the Amazon Sustainability Data Initiative (ASDI), with open access to climate-related data sets (from NASA, the UK Met Office, and the Japan Meteorological Agency, among others), plus free AWS credit, support, and training for researchers and scientific organizations tackling climate challenges.
4. Focus on clean energy infrastructure and enabling corporate renewable energy investment
The IPCC recognizes that renewable energy has tremendous potential in mitigating climate change, and renewable power plays a central role in Amazon’s own decarbonization strategy.
In 2020, Amazon became the world’s largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy, with more than 230 renewable energy projects generating over 10 gigawatts of capacity globally to date putting us on a path to powering our global operations with 100% renewable energy by 2025. In APAC, our utility-scale solar and wind project investments in Australia, China, Singapore, and most recently Japan, are bringing new approaches and associated capital, green jobs, and technology across APAC.
However, considerable decarbonization opportunity remains in APAC, where corporate renewable energy investments prove challenging due to limited availability, undue regulatory complexity, and high costs. To encourage greater availability and affordability of corporate renewable energy options regionally, we actively work with organizations such as the Japan Climate Leaders Partnership (JCLP), Renewable Energy Demand Enhancement (REDE) initiative in India, and Clean Energy Investment Accelerator (CEIA) in Indonesia, among others.
Aligned with these groups, we support regulatory frameworks that incentivize varied, affordable, and additional renewable power purchasing options, beyond what is available on the grid today. And we encourage market structures enabling direct procurement between suppliers and corporate consumers, and supporting credible and transparent issuing, tracking, and certifying of competitively-priced Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) or similar instruments.
Addressing the climate crisis requires both bold commitments and everyday actions. This is why Amazon co-founded The Climate Pledge in 2019, which now has over 200 signatories, including Canva, Greenko, Macquarie Asset Management, and Xero from APAC. It is also why Amazon invests billions to accelerate innovation in decarbonizing technologies well beyond our own operations.
At Amazon, we remain relentlessly optimistic about the future. We know that much more is required to accelerate paths to net zero carbon in APAC, but we see the cloud as a crucial catalyst. And building on our inaugural Sustainability Summit, we hope to continue to learn and work together going forward.