New Global Coalition of Tech, Climate Groups Will Combine AI and Satellites to Monitor GHG Emissions Worldwide in Real Time

Nine nonprofits, tech companies, and former U.S. Vice President Al Gore announce ‘Climate

TRACE’ coalition to build upon unprecedented technical breakthroughs to actively identify,

measure, and trace all significant human-caused GHG emissions to their sources.

Oakland, CA, USA—July 15, 2020—Today nine organizations from around the world and former

U.S. Vice President Al Gore announced a cutting-edge initiative that will use artificial intelligence

(AI), satellite image processing, machine learning, and other remote sensing technologies to

monitor worldwide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This unprecedented collaboration aims to

track human-caused emissions to specific sources in real time—independently and publicly. The

combined project will be known as Climate TRACE (Tracking Real-time Atmospheric Carbon

Emissions).

While climate scientists today have a detailed understanding of the total GHGs in the

atmosphere, efforts to trace where those emissions come from have lagged far behind. Tracking

GHG emissions from nearly every major human-emitting activity worldwide—such as power

plants, factories, large ships, and more—is an enormously difficult undertaking, but advanced AI

and machine learning will now make it possible for the first time.

In many countries and sectors the standard is that emitters self-report their own emissions, then

manually compile the results. Consequently, many governments, companies, and scientists

must rely on data that can be years out of date and sometimes subject to deliberate under-

reporting. The resulting data often provides only incomplete, high-level summary information at

best.

“We as a society have an excellent, objective way of measuring the total emissions in the

atmosphere, called the Keeling Curve. But we haven’t yet figured out any similar way of

objectively tracking, in essentially real time, where those emissions are coming from,” explained

Gavin McCormick, executive director of coalition member WattTime. “The Earth is like a medical

patient suffering from a condition called climate change. Trying to fix it with only years-late, self-

reported emissions data is like asking a doctor to fix a serious disease with no more information

than a list of symptoms the patient had years ago. They’ll do their best. But there’s a reason

hospitals use blood pressure monitors, stethoscopes—maybe an X-ray or MRI—to check what’s

wrong with you right now. If we’re serious about stopping climate change, it’s time we gave

climate ‘doctors’ the same kind of tools.”

The Climate TRACE coalition—which so far includes members from across three

continents—aims to help. Together with climate leader and former U.S. Vice President Al Gore,

the coalition currently includes nonprofits CarbonPlan, Carbon Tracker, Earthrise Alliance,

Hudson Carbon, OceanMind, Rocky Mountain Institute, and WattTime; as well as tech

companies Blue Sky Analytics and Hypervine. Each founding member is a carefully selected

mission-driven organization with advanced technical capabilities in AI- or satellite-based

monitoring in a specific industry, ranging from the power sector, to oil & gas, to agriculture and

shipping. By sharing these techniques, the group has concluded it is likely possible to greatly

augment existing processes and begin directly measuring nearly all GHG emissions data

sources globally in great detail and real time.

“The world has reached a tipping point on the climate crisis. In order to achieve a zero-carbon

future, we need a comprehensive accounting of where pollution is coming from,” said Vice

President Al Gore. “We are excited that Climate TRACE holds the promise to revolutionize

global efforts to measure and reduce emissions across every sector of society, creating a new

era of unprecedented transparency and accountability. Our vision is to equip business, policy,

and citizen leaders with an essential tool to fully realize the economic and job-creation

opportunities of the Sustainability Revolution.”

The potential applications for such a system are numerous, for example:

● For scientists and technologists building emerging emissions-reducing

technologies: the tool will accelerate private-sector innovation in advanced carbon

optimization techniques in forestry, renewable energy, and power grid management.

● For sustainability teams at private-sector companies, investors, and entire

industries: the tool will offer crucial visibility to more-easily and accurately meet

emissions-reduction goals, direct sustainable investments (and divestments), and

assess risk.

● For countries measuring emissions-reduction progress for the Paris Agreement

commitments: the tool may be useful in independently verifying measurements, or

supporting emissions monitoring by countries without the resources to produce such

detailed, up-to-date inventories.

● For any organizations polluting illegally who might seek to keep their emissions

hidden from public view: the tool will provide pioneering transparency and validation to

make it easier for governments that have enacted environmental laws to immediately

identify any activities that violate those laws.

The Climate TRACE coalition grew out of a collection of smaller global emissions-monitoring

projects by individual organizations. In 2019, a group of nonprofits including US-based

WattTime and UK-based Carbon Tracker teamed up to apply for Google.org's AI Impact

Challenge with a proposal to monitor all global power plant emissions from space. Google.org

not only selected the project for a $1.7 million grant, but also sent a group of seven skilled data

engineering and machine learning Fellows to work alongside WattTime and Carbon Tracker for

six months to help bring the initiative to fruition.

After the announcement of the Google.org grant, the teams were surprised to immediately hear

from more than 50 other organizations and scientists around the world offering to help. They

began systematically investigating whether mixing and matching innovations from various

groups could improve global emissions monitoring even further. Around the same time, Vice

President Gore had been investigating ideas for a more-robust and reliable accounting of global

emissions as countries strive to meet Paris Agreement targets and increase ambition to put the

world on a sustainable pathway.

The teams learned that over the past few years many companies have achieved dramatic

progress in individual advanced technologies that could help with emissions monitoring, such as

improved AI algorithms and lower-cost satellites. But many of those breakthroughs have so far

been sitting siloed in different organizations.

“Climate TRACE is an attempt to snap together various components many of our organizations

have been building individually—algorithms, data sets, and analytical approaches—as if they

were Lego bricks,” said McCormick. “Consider coalition member OceanMind. It had built

amazing technology to monitor global shipping, but was applying it to other topics such as

detecting illegal fishing. By taking the part of their software code that monitors ships, and mixing

in others’ know-how about GHG emissions monitoring, it was surprisingly straightforward to

extend their technology to also monitor emissions from global shipping. What’s been so

inspiring about this initiative is that it’s such a collective effort. Everyone is laser-focused on how

much environmental impact this joint tool could have, rather than who gets recognition for which

individual building blocks.”

Climate TRACE has swiftly developed a very basic working prototype and is now focusing on

iterating and improving the tool. Like many AI projects, the tool will continuously improve as the

team adds more data and works out more sophisticated algorithms. The group is cautiously

optimistic that it will release the first version in the summer of 2021.

The Climate TRACE coalition welcomes potential collaboration from any organization interested

in helping to develop or use a shared global emissions monitoring tool. For organizations and

experts with related resources, specifically in the form of remote sensing, computer vision, data

engineering, ground truth emissions data, platforms that could use better emissions data to

drive impact, and funding, please visit www.climatetrace.org.

Additional Quotes from Climate TRACE Members

The coalition’s members are unified in their commitment to potential positive impact.

“Nearly all the best technology tools that are used extensively today are the product of global

collaboration in a free and open-source fashion. As a developer and founder of a tech startup,

it’s clear to me that this global coalition is the starting point for the great climate technology of

tomorrow.”

— Kshitij Purwar, Founder & CTO, Blue Sky Analytics

“Climate TRACE has brought together an impressive group to take on the critical challenge of

using satellite data to track global emissions. We’re excited to work with—and learn from—the

coalition.”

— Jeremy Freeman, Executive Director, CarbonPlan

“Investment in space activities has driven scientific and technological advances that have

transformed our understanding of Earth’s changing climate. Earthrise Alliance was created to

translate this knowledge into meaningful action and to inform critical decision-making that

supports and sustains humanity on Planet Earth.”

— Lori Garver, Former NASA Deputy Administrator and CEO, Earthrise Alliance

“Information is the lifeblood of well-functioning financial markets. Climate TRACE offers a

potentially powerful application for investors to monitor and verify emissions from those asset

owners who are unwilling or unable to disclose timely and accurate data for disclosure

initiatives, such as the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures.”

— Matt Gray, Managing Director and Co-Head of the Power & Utilities Team, Carbon Tracker

Initiative

“Emissions from extractive industrial agriculture are largely underestimated and underreported.

The collective technological power of Climate TRACE has the potential to significantly improve

global agricultural emissions quantification. Our efforts as a member of the coalition will

democratize agricultural emissions data in a way that influences decision-making from the

highest levels of government all the way down to grocery store shoppers.”

— Matt Sheffer, Managing Director, Hudson Carbon

Hypervine was created to support climate efforts by helping the extractive and construction

industries operate more efficiently and reduce their impact on the environment, but we are just

one piece of a larger puzzle. Climate change is a global issue and, as such, needs a

coordinated global response. The collective power of Climate TRACE has the potential to drive

real impact with both speed and transparency.”

— Paul Duddy, CEO, Hypervine.io

“Global shipping accounts for a significant proportion of carbon production, but is currently

exempt from the Paris Agreement. Using satellites and AI, it is now possible to get a clear

picture of emissions from the shipping sector, helping to provide transparency and

accountability. Climate TRACE will offer timely updates on industry progress and celebrate the

successes of shipping leaders in reducing emissions.”

— Nick Wise, CEO, OceanMind

“We cannot solve the climate crisis without trusted data that can inform global action. This

coalition is a critical step toward helping us see—and act on—the true picture of global GHG

emissions. We are excited to integrate publicly available satellite data and present it in a way

that makes swift action toward emissions reductions from the oil and gas sector possible.”

— Ned Harvey, Managing Director, Rocky Mountain Institute

About Climate TRACE

Climate TRACE is a coalition created to make meaningful climate action faster and easier by

mobilizing the global tech community to track greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions with

unprecedented detail and speed. Founding organizations include nonprofits CarbonPlan,

Carbon Tracker, Earthrise Alliance, Hudson Carbon, OceanMind, Rocky Mountain Institute, and

WattTime; tech companies Blue Sky Analytics and Hypervine; as well as climate leader and

former U.S. Vice President Al Gore. Climate TRACE is working to build a cohesive, technical

solution to make humanity’s GHG emissions transparent, accessible, and actionable for all.

About Blue Sky Analytics

Blue Sky is a geospatial data intelligence organization that uses AI and machine learning to

optimally and efficiently analyze satellite data and build environmental monitoring products. The

company sells environmental datasets like air quality via APIs to a variety of customers to help

make informed decisions. More details at www.blueskyhq.in or follow us on twitter at

@blueskylab.

About CarbonPlan

CarbonPlan is a nonprofit working on the scientific integrity and transparency of carbon removal

and other climate solutions. Our small, agile team blends unique expertise in data science, data

visualization, climate policy, climate science, and software engineering. We help organizations

make decisions to support their climate goals and we work collaboratively with the scientific

community to build open source tools and resources. Read more at carbonplan.org or follow us

on Twitter at @carbonplanorg.

About Carbon Tracker

The Carbon Tracker Initiative is a team of financial specialists making climate risk real in today’s

capital markets. Our research to date on unburnable carbon and stranded assets has started a

new debate on how to align the financial system in the transition to a low-carbon economy.

About Earthrise Alliance

Earthrise Alliance incubates policies and technologies to fully utilize satellite data to address

climate change. In just the past ten years, there has been an exponential proliferation of

frequently refreshed high-resolution satellite imagery and other Earth science data. While this

means more data and satellite imagery is being collected, there is still a significant gap in the

utilization of this information. Earthrise is working to use this data to stimulate positive action by

delivering trustworthy, compelling, and actionable content on issues related to climate change.

About Hypervine

Hypervine helps the construction and extractive industries to monitor and measure their GHG

emissions using AI and machine learning to deliver actionable insights and drive change for site

operations. Being environmentally aware can help reduce operational costs; increase quality,

customer satisfaction, and transparency; and bring predictability to site operations. For more

information, please visit Hypervine.io or follow us on Linkedin.

About Hudson Carbon

Hudson Carbon is a nonprofit on-farm soil laboratory. We study how organic regenerative

farming maximizes carbon capture and have built a rich data set from multiple farms throughout

New York’s Hudson Valley. We are in the process of scaling and sharing our research to

quantify carbon flux within the global agricultural sector. In Q4 2020, Hudson Carbon will launch

the first transparent carbon marketplace that inspires consumers to support farmer’s transition

to regenerative practices. For more information visit www.hudsoncarbon.com.

About OceanMind

OceanMind is a UK-based nonprofit organization with the mission to power enforcement and

compliance to protect the world’s oceans. Our work helps preserve marine biodiversity, protect

livelihoods, and prevent slavery in the seafood industry using satellites and AI to identify vessel

activities and suspected regulatory non-compliance.

About Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI)

Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI)—an independent nonprofit founded in 1982—transforms global

energy use to create a clean, prosperous, and secure low-carbon future. It engages businesses,

communities, institutions, and entrepreneurs to accelerate the adoption of market-based

solutions that cost-effectively shift from fossil fuels to efficiency and renewables. RMI has offices

in Basalt and Boulder, Colorado; New York City; the San Francisco Bay Area; Washington,

D.C.; and Beijing. More information on RMI can be found at www.rmi.org or follow us on Twitter

@RockyMtnInst.

About WattTime

WattTime is a nonprofit with a software tech startup DNA, dedicated to giving everyone

everywhere the power to choose clean energy. Our Automated Emissions Reduction (AER)

technology can shift the timing of flexible electricity use to sync with times of cleaner energy and

avoid times of dirtier energy. We help make it easy for anyone to achieve emissions reductions

without compromising cost and user experience. WattTime is a subsidiary of Rocky Mountain

Institute. For more information, please visit WattTime.org.

MEDIA CONTACT

Peter Bronski, Inflection Point Agency for Climate TRACE, WattTime

coalition@climatetrace.org