Climate TRACE – a nonprofit started in 2019 formed by a group of AI specialists, data scientists, researchers, and nongovernmental organizations – has updated its emissions inventory to cover a wide range of new emissions sources. The inventory reportedly now tracks emissions from 352 million assets globally, a 4,400x increase from last year. The inventory relies on satellite data, remote sensing, and public data to compile emissions data unreported in traditional inventories or self-reported ESG databases. The press release states:
“’Leaders from the public and private sectors can now do what’s never been possible before. They can look clearly at the causes of the climate crisis all the way down to the individual source. They can pinpoint where to take action almost immediately,’ said former US Vice President and Climate TRACE co-founder Al Gore. ‘With this inventory at our fingertips, there’s no longer a valid excuse for anyone — businesses, governments, or otherwise — to turn a blind eye to the work that must be done to slash emissions significantly and quickly.’”
Tools like Climate TRACE’s database can help identify emissions sources, the first step in reducing them These tools can also be used to identify scope 3 supply chain emissions and compare the emissions intensity of different suppliers, helping companies make more informed purchasing decisions and consider carbon emission of their trade partners.
The TRACE database has promise, but it remains to be seen if the data is high quality and robust enough to be used in regulatory emissions reporting. Some reporting regimens, like the EPA’s new rule for methane emissions reduction in the oil and gas industry, have specific technical performance requirements for companies using third party remote sensing technologies. It is unclear what performance standards TRACE’s methodologies and equipment meet. Furthermore, it’s intended use assumes that companies have total visibility into their entire supply chains to identify all the greenhouse gas emission sources – a common assumption that just isn’t correct.
The database has a dual use of both helping companies and making data available to the public to keep companies honest about their emissions. With mandatory reporting emerging from the EU and California, regulators may look to tools like Climate TRACE as a check against company GHG disclosures. Technological developments and increasingly accurate emissions inventories put pressure on companies to ensure the accuracy of their emissions data or risk being exposed for greenwashing.
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