Around 20 organisations launch new effort close gap in underreported greenhouse gas emissions and boost credibility of net zero targets

Microsoft, EY, and the Corporate Leaders Group Europe are among 20 leading organisations which have today launched a joint drive to develop a universal carbon accounting system in a bid to improve the transparency and reliability of greenhouse gas emissions data.

Led by the ClimateWorks Foundation, the new Carbon Call initiative aims to accelerate the development of reliable and interoperable carbon emissions accounting, which it argues will be critical to helping the world achieve net zero emission by around mid-century.

“To avoid the worst impacts of climate change, we must deliver on effective infrastructure this decade that supports credibility of net zero targets,” said Surabi Menon, vice president of global intelligence at ClimateWorks Foundation.

“Accurate carbon accounting is fundamental to holding polluters accountable and knowing where focus on climate action is most needed,” she added. “The Carbon Call will build on existing efforts by bringing together civil, business and philanthropic actors to accelerate the development of more reliable and interoperable systems for tracking emissions.”

The reliability of the various existing carbon accounting methodologies used by businesses and governments worldwide has been frequently called into question, amid fears that some countries may be underestimating and underreporting their greenhouse gas emission by potentially billions of tonnes of CO2 equivalent.

A Washington Post investigation in November estimated the current gap in underreported greenhouse gas emissions could be in the range of between 8.5 billion and 13.3 billion tonnes per year, which it said was “big enough to move the needle on how much the Earth will warm”.

Data quality issues, measurement and reporting inconsistencies, and infrastructure challenges have dogged current carbon accounting systems, which makes it difficult to share, compare, and combine reliable emissions data, particularly for companies, according to Carbon Call.

The new initiative therefore aims to address the current gaps in existing carbon accounting systems, with a focus on carbon removals measurement, such as from tree, mangrove, and other natural carbon sinks, as well as emissions from land, sources of methane, and other forms of indirect emissions.

Eliot Whittington, director of CLG Europe – which represents a host of leading corporates, including IKEA, Unilever, and Coca-Cola – said there was a growing need to harness more robust carbon accounting approaches to improve trust and accountability around net zero targets.

“As action on climate change scales up and becomes mainstream, we’re seeing a growing trust gap as new promises are made without the tools and systems to track delivery,” he said. “The Carbon Call is a much-needed rallying point for efforts to improve the accountability, transparency and readability of data on carbon emissions across the economy – an indispensable tool in closing that trust gap. Better collaboration for more transparent, more clear and more useful data will help the world keep track of climate pledges and give insights into how to improve and accelerate delivery of the Paris Agreement.”

The organisations backing the initiative, which also include Capricorn Investment Group, Indian multinational conglomerate Wipro, and the UN Environment Programme, have agreed to work collectively to identify where accurate information is needed to improve reliability of data.

Moreover, they have individually committed to reporting their greenhouse gas emissions and offset information comprehensively across all scopes and classes “annually and transparently”.

Other organisations signed up to Carbon Call, which is inviting further companies to join, include Linux Foundation, LF Energy, Climate Change AI, the Global Carbon Project, the Global Council for Science and the Environment, and the International Science Council.

Lucas Joppa, Microsoft’s chief environmental officer, urged all organisations committed to achieving net zero emissions to join the initiative.

“With so many organisations now committing to net zero, one key piece is still missing: a transparent and interoperable system to track, report and compare greenhouse gas emissions and removals,” he said. “The Carbon Call is a collaboration to enable reliability among the multiple, different GHG accounting leaders – from the corporate to the national to the planetary.”

In related news, carbon market certification body Gold Standard today revealed it has secured a $1m grant from Google’s charitable arm to help develop an open, global, digital system for carbon market standards, monitoring, reporting, and verification.

The voluntary carbon market continues to grow, having passed the $1bn value mark last year, yet the myriad certification processes underpinning the market remains “disjointed, and in some cases complex’, Gold Standard said.

As such, the Google-backed initiative – which is set to kick-off in the coming months alongside partners ClimateCHECK, the IOTA Foundation, and Cosmos Partners – is aiming to harness Internet of Things (IoT) technology to improve data quality, reduce costs, and enhance access to project certification.

“We aim to leverage technology to accurately and efficiently measure climate and development outcomes,” saids Margaret Kim, CEO of Gold Standard. “The goal is to maximise the impact of every dollar, euro or peso toward climate security and meaningful sustainable development, and put more power in the hands of those delivering this impact.”

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