Could New Innovation Track Emissions More Effectively?

Could New Innovation Track Emissions More Effectively?

At COP26 last year, many countries made ambitious pledges to cut their emissions, but there's a major roadblock to meeting those commitments: bad climate data. For example, the most recent report for China, the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases (GHGs), was published in 2018 but contained emissions data from 2012 and ignores that the country’s GHG emissions have likely increased 25%. Another study found that the EPA's climate evaluation for methane is three times too low to meet goals outlined in the Paris Agreement. And according to the Washington Post, emissions numbers declared by world leaders at COP26 may have been underreported by up to 13.3 billion tons per year.

Reuters: 2021 saw jump in greenhouse-gas emissions, says report, January 10, 2022.

Why This Matters

In order to meet their climate commitments, nations need to provide and collect good data. In an op-ed for Scientific American, Angel Hsu and Marco Schletz write:

We are in an information drought; what we are getting about mitigating emissions from national, regional, and local governments, as well as corporations, is insufficient… Overall, making critical decisions on climate policy with such outdated numbers is like driving a car while looking through the rearview mirror.

The Good News

Technological innovations could help collect more accurate data. For instance, emerging digital technologies like blockchain or distributed ledger technologies could synthesize different types of climate data quickly, a process that can be time-intensive and riddled with inaccuracies when done by hand.

There has also been quite a bit of development in the private sector. One startup called Watershed that helps companies analyze their emissions raised $70 million in Series B funding from major VC firms Sequoia and Kleiner Perkins. Another carbon accounting platform, Persefoni, raised $101 million in Series B financing last fall, suggesting that digital emissions analytics are a promising solution to the world's climate data problems. And a new initiative, the Carbon Call, led by Microsoft and the ClimateWorks Foundation aims to improve methods for tracking how much GHGs companies and countries are emitting.

CNBC: Why Tracking Carbon Emissions Is Suddenly A Billion Dollar Opportunity, September 14, 2021.

Bloomberg: Persefoni & Kentaro Kawamori, August 19, 2021.

Climate Action: Interview with Tim Mohin at Persefoni, November 19, 2021.