Al Gore’s COP27 Priority: TRACE Climate Emissions Database

Al Gore has a mission this week at COP27, and that is to give climate negotiators what he hopes will be an essential tool in dealing with the current crisis: an independent global inventory of greenhouse gas emissions. greenhouse, up to individual installation.

The Climate TRACE coalition has just released the world’s most detailed inventory of global greenhouse gas emissions, which founding member Gore unveiled at the United Nations climate summit in Egypt on Wednesday.


“Of course, the world has known for a long time what the overall amount of greenhouse gas pollution is in the atmosphere. What’s different about that? [database] is the precise breakdown of who is responsible for what and the granularity that allows us to focus on specific emission sources,” Gore told Protocol, adding that he had “no doubt” that the database “will be used a lot in the negotiations for Sure.”

The inventory shows emissions at the facility level, which will allow negotiators to focus on the most polluting sites in each country, helping them to target where emission reductions should come from. Placing a solar farm in one location could displace far more emissions than locating it elsewhere, and inventory allows negotiators to identify exactly where they would get “the best value for money”.

The inventory, published Wednesday on the Climate TRACE website and available to everyone, includes data on emissions from 72,612 individual sources, including power plants, steel mills and oil and gas fields. This also includes sources that can move between countries, such as freighters.

This granularity will be essential for countries to have an accurate accounting of their emissions and their origin, especially countries that do not have the resources to collect this data themselves. It will also help companies find the most cost-effective and efficient way to reduce their emissions, said Gavin McCormick, another founding member of the coalition.

“One of the exciting parts for us was shifting the conversation from countries arguing in a loose sense over accountability to ‘Hey, we’re talking about these few facilities here,'” McCormick said.

Using AI and satellite data, Climate TRACE was able to determine that a significant portion of carbon pollution comes from a small number of facilities. The database shows that a steel mill in Korea, for example, emits more greenhouse gases in a year than all of Bosnia. “The politics of how you would transition a few facilities is surprisingly different than when you say, ‘Who could know where that came from? ‘” McCormick said.

Many countries lack accurate, granular and up-to-date emissions data. This is partly due to resource constraints, particularly in smaller or poorer countries. Egypt, for example, released a partial inventory of its 2015 emissions for the first time this year. national. In India, “I know they literally count cows for a few farms and then assume those farms are representative of the whole country,” McCormick said.

Climate TRACE data shows emissions at the facility level.Image: Climate TRACE

A key lesson learned from this inventory is that oil and gas emissions are “massively underestimated” in official estimates, he said. Using satellite data, the coalition discovered that oil and gas leaks were a significant source of “super-emitter” sites.

Asked whether he thought the underestimation of emissions from the oil and gas sector was deliberate or not, Gore said: “There are several specific examples that are difficult to interpret other than that there are had an intentional effort to hide emissions and mislead the global community about the magnitude of the emissions. It’s almost impossible to believe that this is an accidental oversight, and all accidents point in exactly the same direction.

Gore, however, is not interested in Climate TRACE being the “climate cops”. He sees the coalition as more of a “neighborhood watch,” which is often contacted by law enforcement for local information. “I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some – perhaps many – of governments use this information to ensure their laws and regulations are followed,” he said.

It is not only governments that can benefit from the release of stocks, but also private companies.

The cleanest steel mills are not used to full capacity. Still, shifting operations to these plants could reduce emissions from the steel sector by 50%, McCormick said.

Companies that want to decarbonize their supply chains — which includes a number of big tech companies from Salesforce to Apple — can simply use the information to buy products from the cleanest facilities. The coalition has already started having conversations with multinationals about switching suppliers, which can happen in months rather than years, if armed with independent data.

By next year, Climate TRACE hopes to update the inventory to include all emission sources and eventually move closer to real-time updating. At present, the data as a whole is at least annual until 2021, with some sectors being updated monthly.

“My belief is that if we can demonstrate to the world that progress is actually easier than they thought it was and that we can actually track that progress, that will be the year many countries start to taste great things. serious progress,” McCormick said. said.