Feb 10, 2022 - Energy & Environment

Big names join hunt to find missing carbon emissions

Illustration of a pair of binoculars with smoke coming out.
Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

A new initiative led by Microsoft and the ClimateWorks Foundation aims to improve methods for tracking how much greenhouse gases companies and countries are emitting.

Why it matters: Corporate leaders and policymakers are realizing that current carbon accounting and reporting methods may be missing huge amounts of emissions.

Driving the news: The Carbon Call initiative launched today with more than 20 organizations is an effort to develop common, reliable and interoperable carbon emissions accounting systems.

The big picture: Determining how much greenhouse gases each country is emitting, along with companies — some of which have carbon footprints that rival nation-states — is no easy task.

  • For companies, reporting is plagued with inconsistencies in how they measure and share their emissions tallies, along with scientific uncertainties and data quality problems.

Details: The Carbon Call aims to focus on four key areas: methane, indirect emissions, carbon removal and the land-use sector.

  • Organizations include Capricorn Investment Group, Climate Change AI, the Global Carbon Project, United Nations Environment Program, Ernst & Young, KPMG and Stanford's Woods Institute for the Environment, among others.
  • Each participant has agreed to report their emissions and offsets "comprehensively," according to a statement, "including all scopes and classes of GHG emissions, annually and transparently."
  • Microsoft and ClimateWorks are providing unspecified launch funding.

What they're saying: ClimateWorks vice president of global intelligence Surabi Menon told Axios her organization is focused on trying to design each emitter's carbon accounting book, or carbon "ledger," so that they are interoperable.

  • The goal, she said, is to have a "global dashboard that tells you what exactly is happening in terms of emissions."
  • According to Microsoft chief environmental officer Lucas Joppa, scientists can precisely track the planet's carbon and methane levels via ground and satellites.
  • "What we don't really know is where it's coming from, you know, which individual, which organization, which country," he told Axios. Those more specific estimates can be "off by orders of magnitude."
  • Joppa said new satellite data could add to the confusion if their numbers are not compared with shared and interoperable carbon accounting ledgers from businesses and countries.

The bottom line: "We want more certainty and less skepticism in the world on people's progress or lack thereof," Joppa said.

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