Carbon Emissions Released 2021. Source: https://climatetrace.org/map
On the 9th of November at COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, founding member Al Gore announced the launch of Climate TRACE’s newly intricate and highly detailed carbon emissions database. Formed in 2021 prior to COP26, Climate TRACE, which stands for Tracking Real-Time Atmospheric Carbon Emissions, is a global non-profit coalition made up of non-governmental organisations, artificial intelligence experts, data scientists and researchers. The independent group monitors greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across the globe by using a combination of satellite imagery, artificial intelligence and other advanced software.1
While GHG emissions have been observed for decades, Climate TRACE is revolutionary in that it can track emissions down to site-specific facilities such as individual power plants and oil/gas fields, and is currently monitoring over 72,000 emitters across the globe.2 The inventory has obtained such a high degree of accuracy by training AI to spot differences in data from the variety of sources they collect; helping to fill in critical knowledge gaps. It is ‘the world’s first comprehensive accounting of greenhouse gas emissions based primarily on direct, independent observation.’3
The collection of such granular data is truly groundbreaking, as pinpointing GHG emissions to specific sites increases accountability by preventing oil and gas companies from underreporting or greenwashing. As Climate TRACE has free access, environmental organisations across the globe can examine this data, ensuring governments and private companies are honouring their emission reductions pledges as stated in the Paris Agreement.4
Likewise, governments and private companies can employ the resource as a crucial component in the ongoing negotiations at COP27 over allocating climate finance. As governments can identify the specific town or city that is emitting dangerously high levels of GHG emissions, they could then direct the appropriate finance to mitigate this.5
In a conversation with Protocol, Gavin McCormick, another founding member of the coalition, stresses the importance of this granularity, stating, ‘one of the exciting parts for us has been to move the conversation from countries arguing in some vague sense about accountability to, ‘hey, we’re talking about these few facilities here.’6
Last year’s inventory unveiled eye-opening data, finding that actual carbon emission levels are thought to be three times higher than previously recorded due to ‘underreporting of methane leaks, flaring, and other activities associated with oil and gas production.’7
Eventually, Climate TRACE hopes to update its inventory on a much faster basis and to include every source of carbon emissions across the globe. This critical resource will lead the way ‘in an era of radical transparency,’8 by ensuring governments and private companies are working towards their pledges, and by revealing the true scale of the problem that we are faced with, which is far greater than we were led to believe.
Climate TRACE is free to access here: https://climatetrace.org
1. Climate TRACE, 2022. Climate Trace: Independent Greenhouse Gas Emissions Tracking. Available at https://climatetrace.org [accessed 14/11/22]
2. Climate TRACE, 2022. Climate Trace: Independent Greenhouse Gas Emissions Tracking.
3. Climate TRACE, 2022. Climate Trace: Independent Greenhouse Gas Emissions Tracking.
4. Climate TRACE, 2022. Climate Trace: Independent Greenhouse Gas Emissions Tracking.
5. Conor Lennon and Laura Quiñones, hosts, 9th November 2022. The Lid is On Podcast: COP27 Podcast: Polluter Pays? Available at https://news.un.org/en/audio/2022/11/1130387 [accessed 14/11/22]
6. Protocol, 2022. This global emissions inventory is Al Gore’s secret weapon at COP27. Available at https://www.protocol.com/bulletins/climate-trace-al-gore-inventory [accessed 14/11/22]
7. Climate TRACE, 2022. Climate Trace: Independent Greenhouse Gas Emissions Tracking.
8. United Nations, 2022. Secretary-General’s remarks at launch of Al Gore’s Climate TRACE initiative [as delivered]. Available at https://www.un.org/sg/en/content/sg/statement/2022-11-09/secretary-generals-remarks-launch-of-al-gores-climate-trace-initiative-delivered [accessed 14/11/22]