UK government tells firms to use cloud to curb their carbon emissions and fight climate change

Businesses should consider picking up the pace of their cloud migrations to do their bit to help tackle climate change, the UK government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has advised.

The department has issued a series of steps that businesses should consider taking to help curb their carbon emissions by making changes to the technology they use and buy to run their organisations.

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The recommendations are part of a wider push by the government to encourage businesses to throw their weight behind its climate change-tackling net-zero emissions campaign, whereby firms across the UK are being challenged to take action to shrink their carbon footprints by 2030.

This is through joining the BEIS-backed UK Business Climate Hub initiative, which is also challenging participants to become net-zero entities by 2050.

“Net-zero means that you are putting no more carbon into the atmosphere than you are taking out of it,” said the advisory notice. “Through the government’s United Nations-backed commitment process, you’re joining an international community of thousands of like-minded businesses.”

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From a technology purchasing perspective, BEIS said one action companies should take is to consider moving more of their on-premise IT infrastructure to the public cloud instead of continuing to house it within their own private datacentres.

“Large cloud providers are generally more energy efficient than traditional enterprise datacentres,” said the advisory note. “That’s thanks to IT operational and equipment efficiency, datacentre infrastructure efficiency and a higher utilisation of renewable energy. So consider moving from on-premise servers to the cloud.”

The department is also urging IT buyers to audit the data they have stored on-premise to assess whether it is worth keeping in the long term.

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“Think about deleting data that is no longer needed – redundant, obsolete or trivial – to minimise storage costs once migrated to the cloud,” the advisory note added.

For context, the big three public cloud providers – Amazon, Google and Microsoft – have all made progress and pledges in recent years to ramp up the amount of renewable energy they use to power their datacentres.

Amazon Web Services (AWS), for example, claims it is on course to have its entire operations powered by renewable sources by 2025, while the Google Cloud team went public with its commitment to ensure its entire global business will run on carbon-free energy by the year 2030.

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As well as committing to having all its datacentres powered by renewable energy by 2025, Microsoft has also promised to build hardware recycling centres on-site at every new and existing datacentre site it operates, which feeds into another of BEIS’s recommendations.

And that is that businesses should consider buying repurposed and recycled IT equipment that has been processed through an accredited IT asset disposition partner, or buy printers and laptops that are certified as being energy-efficient. There are also software-level changes they can make, it said. 

“There are many ways you can design your software to minimise energy use,” said the BEIS advisory. “Even small improvements, when amplified across millions of systems, can make a big difference.”

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Andrew Griffith, the government’s business net zero champion, said the advice issued by BEIS is a positive step that all businesses can take to help curb their carbon emissions.

“From buying energy-efficient equipment to sourcing large cloud providers, these small steps can collectively make a big difference in helping us fight climate change and create a brighter and more sustainable future,” he added.

Matthew Evans, director of markets at UK tech trade body TechUK, said that with Glasgow due to play host to the COP26 Climate Conference in November, now is a great time for businesses to commit to joining the “green revolution”.

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“The tech sector has a key role in providing the tools that will allow us to reach net-zero, but tech companies themselves also need to successfully manage this change,” he said.

“The advice set out by BEIS lists some simple and easy-to-understand actions that companies of any size can make today to play their own important role in cutting our carbon footprint.

“TechUK looks forward to continuing to work with the sector, and particularly small and medium-sized businesses, to assist companies on their journey to net-zero.”

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