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Carbon Emission Tracking

How a new effort to trace emissions in real time, led by Al Gore, could reshape climate talks.

There's a saying in the business world: “what gets measured gets managed”. The team behind a new project to track carbon emissions in real time expect exactly this to happen by harnessing a combination of artificial intelligence, satellite image processing and machine learning to trace all carbon emissions direct to their source.

At the micro level, the platform will allow users to track emissions down to the level of individual factories, ships and power plants. In aggregate, the platform will allow for a collective accounting of the how the world is doing in the effort to reduce emissions.

Launched this week, the Climate TRACE (Tracking Real-time Atmospheric Carbon Emissions) project is spearheaded by former US vice president Al Gore and a coalition of organisations, which are optimistic of having a first version of the system ready by summer 2021.

“In order to achieve a zero-carbon future, we need a comprehensive accounting of where pollution is coming from,” said Gore. “Climate TRACE holds the promise to revolutionise global efforts to measure and reduce emissions across every sector of society, creating a new era of unprecedented transparency and accountability.”

“We are creating, in a way, a massively distributed body cam for the planet,” says Al Gore. In other words, if a given country claims to have reduced, say power-plant emissions, other countries will soon be able to immediately tap into Climate Trace and get data to verify the claim.

“It’s an entirely different proposition to have real time and near real time data,” says Gore. “When we can trace the source of all significant emissions, then it creates a new reality.”

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