People walk under an archway with the COP27 logo at dusk.
Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty Images

The data set that could change UN climate talks

Protocol Climate

Happy Thursday! We have a double dose of COP27 news from some guy named Al Gore and another guy named John Kerry. Today, we’re talking about what Gore’s new data tool and Kerry’s new carbon market vision mean for Big Tech. Read on!

Al Gore shows us the data

People go to United Nations climate talks with all sorts of goals. Announcing new initiatives, protesting inaction, taking a selfie with Secretary-General António Guterres.

For Al Gore, it’s giving negotiators an independent, global inventory of greenhouse gas emissions, down to the individual facility. He delivered just that: The Climate TRACE coalition, of which Gore is a founding member, just released the world’s most detailed inventory of greenhouse gas emissions.

Granular data could unlock major climate gains in an era of gridlock. Gore told Protocol that he has “no doubt” that the database “will be put to a lot of use in negotiations.” That’s because it shows where polluters are.

  • “Of course, the world has long known what the overall amount of greenhouse gas pollution in the atmosphere is,” he said. “What’s different about this [database] is the accurate apportioning of who’s responsible for what and the granularity that allows us a focus on specific emissions sources.”
  • The inventory is free for anyone to access and includes emissions data for 72,612 individual sources, including power plants, steel mills, and oil and gas fields.
  • For developing countries with limited resources to gather let alone analyze data, the Climate TRACE inventory could help them pin down where carbon pollution is coming from.

The data shows where the super polluters are. That could be used to hold them accountable.

  • “One of the exciting parts for us has been to move the conversation from countries arguing in some vague sense about accountability to, ‘Hey, we’re talking about these few facilities here,’” said Gavin McCormick, another founding member of the coalition.
  • Using AI and satellite data, Climate TRACE was able to determine that a significant share of carbon pollution comes from a small number of facilities.
  • The database shows that one steel mill in Korea, for example, emits more greenhouse gas pollution in a year than all of Bosnia.
  • “The politics of how you would transition a few facilities is strikingly different than when you’re saying, ‘Who could know where it’s coming from?’” McCormick said.

Tech companies looking to clean up their supply chains have a powerful tool. Climate negotiators aren’t the only ones who could benefit from the inventory as they haggle over an agreement. Many tech companies have promised to decarbonize their supply chains.

  • The data set will make it clear what facilities could help them do that, from cleaner steel and aluminum to using less-polluting ships to transport goods. (Yes, ships are also in the inventory.)
  • The coalition has already started having conversations with multinational corporations about switching suppliers.
  • That can happen in a matter of months rather than years, if they’re armed with independent data.

Get the full story here.

— Michelle Ma

A carbon credit conundrum

Al Gore isn’t the only one on a mission at COP27. Climate Envoy John Kerry is there. But while Gore is looking to arm negotiators with data, Kerry is there to, among other things, announce a plan for a new carbon market. Offsets are one of Big Tech’s big climate indulgences, but it remains to be seen if the new scheme will add any value.

The new carbon market promises to be more robust than the old ones. The plan, dubbed the Energy Transition Accelerator, was announced in partnership with the Bezos Earth Fund and the Rockefeller Foundation.

  • The accelerator would allow companies to buy carbon credits, which would fund renewable energy projects in developing countries.
  • Those companies would then be able to count the emissions cuts toward their own net zero goals.
  • Kerry said the goal is to "have this up and running no later than COP28," which will take place next year in Dubai.

Promises don’t make perfect, though. Carbon credit programs have been criticized historically for a multitude of reasons, ranging from being used to greenwash corporations to being an ineffective way of achieving emissions reductions.

  • Some organizations that were briefed on the plan prior to the announcement, including the Natural Resources Defense Council and the World Resources Institute, weren't supportive of the plan because they felt it could undermine global net zero goals.
  • “We’ve seen offsets being used as greenwashing and to delay action,” Harjeet Singh, head of strategy for the Climate Action Network, told E&E News. “I think the big question is, how is this going to be different?”
  • Those concerns echo a United Nations report published on Tuesday that found that for companies to meet their net zero goals, they "must use credits associated with a credibly governed standard-setting body that has the highest environmental integrity with attention to positive social and economic outcomes where the projects or jurisdictional programs are located."
  • For companies to responsibly use carbon credits, they should ideally only help to cover the last 5% to 10% of emissions.

There are still a lot of details to be hammered out, but Kerry announced a few safeguards to try to quell skepticism, including that fossil fuel companies would not be allowed to participate in the program. Some tech companies, including Microsoft, have already expressed interest in participating pending said rule-hammering.

Read the full story here.

— Michelle Ma

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Make it rain

French EV battery manufacturer Verkor raised $248 million to fund an R&D lab for designing high-performance batteries.

Chinese company Hebei Kuntian New Energy, which produces anode materials for lithium-ion batteries, raised $137.4 million to expand its production capacity.

Supply chain visibility platform project44 just announced an $80 million funding round led by Generation Investment Management.

Phosphate fertilizer company Ostara raised $70 million in its series C round, which the startup will use to complete the construction of its St. Louis manufacturing facility.

German EV charging company the Mobility House announced a roughly $50 million series C round co-led by Mercuria, Ventura Capital, and Green Gateway Fund.

EV charging startup Xeal has raised a $40 million series B round led by Keyframe Capital. Funds will be used to accelerate the deployment of EV charging stations, among other things.

Building energy management software startup Runwise announced $19 million in series A funding led by Fifth Wall, with the money going toward expanding into utilities outside of heating including water, as well as expanding outside of the U.S.

Los Angeles-based AMP, an energy management platform for e-mobility, raised a $17.25 million series A round.

Hot links

EV stocks took a wild ride. Tesla, Rivian, and Lucid all saw their stock prices drop on Wednesday following not-so-great earnings reports (though Rivian’s rebounded).

The U.K. joins the battery race. The site for the U.K.’s first large-scale lithium refinery has been chosen, setting into motion the construction of a $687 million project.

Solar justice is real. While rooftop solar is still largely being installed by wealthy households, low- and middle-income ones are increasingly harnessing the sun.

Breaking: Climate change threatens cool and good things. “The things Americans value most are at risk,” according to a draft of a major report set to come out next year.

New Yorkers voted for climate. State voters approved $4.2 billion in climate spending to protect the state from increasingly extreme weather.

Seagrass meadows could save us. Researchers are aiming to map the Indian Ocean’s seagrass, which can be a powerful carbon sink.

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