Mar 19, 2019

Blockchain could help track progress on Paris Agreement goals

Hardware at the SberBit cryptocurrency mining equipment facility in Moscow. Photo: Vyacheslav Prokofyev/TASS via Getty Images

While some global policies for mitigating climate change and adapting to its effects have been put in place, there is no integrated system to track progress against those goals and evaluate the effectiveness of various approaches.

The big picture: As public and private sector leaders attempt to keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius, a blockchain-based system could allow parties to monitor which strategies to reduce carbon emissions work, which don’t, and how much each contributes.

Details: The Paris Agreement is decentralized and bottom-up, making it a promising sandbox for blockchain, which strings together data to generate a permanent record that can be continuously viewed, updated and verified by users at all levels.

How it works: Côte d’Ivoire’s NDC, for example, entails reducing its greenhouse gas emissions 28% by 2030, which could be achieved by sourcing 42% of its energy from renewables in the same timeframe. A blockchain-based system could verify not only whether those goals have been reached, but also how their achievement contributes to global progress.

Another essential application is tracking climate finance flows. Whether at the global, national, firm or household level, blockchain can verify products, services and distributors in energy and agricultural industries. Owing to its open nature, blockchain can also reduce costs associated with complex supply chains and connect disparate markets.

Yes, but: Blockchain isn’t a silver bullet, and consumes a great deal of energy itself.

  • Defining the metrics for impacts, on both emissions and costs, will be technically and politically complicated. Tracking and comparing adaptation approaches will be particularly challenging, as they are highly local and context-specific.
  • Creating such a system on a global scale presents considerable legal and governance challenges.
  • There is little that technology can do to solve regulatory and institutional challenges or a lack of political ambition.

What to watch: There is already momentum to bring blockchain to climate policy, with pioneers testing out peer-to-peer systems for energy trading, marine fuels, renewable energy credits (RECs), and carbon credit tokenization.

Alzbeta Klein is the director for climate business at the International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group.

Go deeper

America's rundown roads add to farmers' struggles

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

American farmers are struggling to safely use the roads that cut through their fields; decades of neglect and lack of funding have made the routes dangerous.

The big picture: President Trump has long promised to invest billions in rural infrastructure, and his latest proposal would allocate $1 trillion for such projects. Rural America, where many of Trump's supporters live, would see a large chunk of that money.

South Korea and Italy see spikes in coronavirus cases

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The novel coronavirus continues to spread to more nations, and the U.S. reports a doubling of its confirmed cases to 34 — while noting those are mostly due to repatriated citizens, emphasizing there's no "community spread" yet in the U.S. South Korea's confirmed cases jumped from 204 on Friday to 433 on Saturday, while Italy's case count rose from 3 to 62 as of Saturday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed at least 2,362 people and infected more than 77,000 others, mostly in mainland China. New countries to announce infections recently include Israel, Lebanon and Iran.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 4 hours ago - Health

Centrist Democrats beseech 2020 candidates: "Stand up to Bernie" or Trump wins

Bernie Sanders rallies in Las Vegas, Nevada on Feb. 21. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Center-left think tank Third Way urgently called on the Democratic front-runners of the 2020 presidential election to challenge Sen. Bernie Sanders on the South Carolina debate stage on Feb. 25, in a memo provided to Axios' Mike Allen on Saturday.

What they're saying: "At the Las Vegas debate ... you declined to really challenge Senator Sanders. If you repeat this strategy at the South Carolina debate this week, you could hand the nomination to Sanders, likely dooming the Democratic Party — and the nation — to Trump and sweeping down-ballot Republican victories in November."