We need interoperable data to track our progress against climate change
Twenty organizations including Microsoft have announced the Carbon Call, an initiative to make carbon accounting good enough to properly track and control emissions.
The group says accurate carbon emissions accounting is necessary, if the world is to reach net zero by midcentury, so it has kicked off a move to develop carbon emissions accounting data which is fair, accurate and up to date – as well as being interoperable, so it can be easily exchanged among carbon accounting systems.
Bad data leads to failure
“Reliable measurement and accounting of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is critical to climate accountability and attribution,” says the group’s announcement. And it seems that the world does not currently have good data.
A Washington Post report found that underreported GHG emissions are at least 8.5 billion tons and could be as high as 13.3 billion tons each year. That is a huge amount, amounting to up to one-third of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel – quoted by Statista as 36.4 billion (metric) tonnes per year (or about 40 US tons).
The problems with carbon accounting include data quality issues, measurement and reporting inconsistencies, siloed platforms, and infrastructure challenges, so the data is not just inaccurate, it is also very difficult to share it, or to compare or combine it with data from other sources.
The Carbon Call wants to find and fix the gaps in existing carbon accounting systems, and make sure they can include carbon removal, methane and indirect emissions, so it can create universal standards for carbon accounting methodology.
The Call is hosted by ClimateWorks Foundation, and members include the Linux Foundation alongside Microsoft. Other members include Capricorn Investment Group, Climate Change AI, Corporate Leaders Group Europe, Global Carbon Project, Global Council for Science and the Environment, International Science Council, LF Energy, Mila, Skoll Foundation, Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, United Nations Environment Programme (collaborating organization), and United Nations Foundation.
“We invest billions of dollars into climate solutions, and we are now deploying significant capital into carbon removal in order to meet our net zero commitment,” says Ion Yadigaroglu, managing partner at Capricorn Investment Group. “But this only registers at the scale of the climate crisis if we can keep track of the global balance between greenhouse gas emissions and removals. We are joining the Carbon Call to support the creation of a transparent and science-based ledger for carbon accounting. This will be an important building block for net zero investing.”
Lucas Joppa, chief environmental officer at Microsoft, said, “With so many organizations now committing to net zero, one key piece is still missing: a transparent and interoperable system to track, report, and compare GHG emissions and removals. The Carbon Call is a collaboration to enable reliability among the multiple, different GHG accounting ledgers — from the corporate to the national to the planetary. We encourage all organizations committed to net zero to join us.”
Many tech leaders have promised to become climate neutral, or claim to be so already, but the quality of data they provide has led to criticism as the actual results delivered do not match up to the claims made. This week Carbon Market Watch looked at 25 leaders, all of whom make some kind of “100 percent neutral” pledge, only to find that their efforts deliver, on average, a 40 percent cut in emissions, with some delivering as little as 15 percent.