September 24, 2021
Climate TRACE aims to hold governments & private industries accountable for emissions
Climate TRACE (Tracking Real-Time Atmospheric Carbon Emissions) — a global coalition including 11 nonprofits, tech companies, and universities supported by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and Google.org — just released its first comprehensive independent inventory of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, slightly over a month in advance of the COP26 summit.
The publicly available inventory, which spans 2015 — 2020 and includes emissions data on 10 sectors of the global economy, is "based primarily on direct, independent observation," a contrast to previous emissions inventories based primarily on self-reported data — e.g., national GHG inventories submitted to United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as mandated by the Climate Change Convention or EPA's Facility Level Information on GreenHouse gases Tool (FLIGHT). Climate TRACE reports that its inventory includes data derived from machine learning-based analysis of satellite imagery and remote sensing data, as well as additional sources of emissions data. However, no peer-reviewed literature supporting this methodology is cited on Climate TRACE's website.
Overall, the coalition aims to make possible the monitoring of global emissions in unprecedented detail and at unprecedented speed. Climate TRACE already touts several new "insights" based on their data, including greater-than-reported emissions from oil and gas production, rice production, and road transport.
According to Climate TRACE claims on their website, the data "will also be a critical tool for advocates working to hold governments and the private sector accountable to their emissions reduction pledges." Such data, made possible by rapidly evolving emissions monitoring technologies, could play a central role in climate change enforcement, litigation, and stakeholder activism if companies are found to be emitting more than they are disclosing. Such data could be used, in part, to connect GHG emissions to climate damages based on the "polluter pays" approach.
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