Fighting the climate crisis with the help of emerging technologies

This article presents 3 technological pillars that will help us fight the climate crisis by improving the carbon market.

We live in an era of restoration, a time to correct the mistakes we as humanity have made. The relevance of the climate actions we decide to take in the coming years will define how and where we live. Since 2005, when the Kyoto Protocol came into force, industrialized countries committed themselves to reducing their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by complying with different goals established in the medium term; the protocol establishes that the reductions must come from internal actions; however, the first emissions trading mechanisms were also created. Now known as the carbon market, it is the first mechanism through which assets related to greenhouse gases can be traded. The main asset of the carbon market is carbon credits, which are measured in tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2 e).  A carbon credit represents one ton of carbon dioxide that was not emitted, i.e., that was captured from the atmosphere rather than released into it. The carbon market is intended to enable countries committed to the Kyoto Protocol to rely on external assistance to meet the GHG (greenhouse gas) reduction targets established. This is done by using assistance from other countries and/or projects through the purchase of carbon credits. There is both a voluntary and a regulated carbon market.

 

The carbon market is not all flowers and colors. Since its implementation, several areas of opportunity have been found. Some of the challenges and opportunities of the carbon market are as follows:

  • There are many carbon credits and most fail to demonstrate transparency and quality
  • The voluntary market must grow by 15 times by 2030 to meet the Paris Agreement targets
  • There are problems of double counting of carbon credits. This refers to the fact that there is currently no clear transparency of the purchase and sale of such assets, so it could happen that a company purchases carbon credits and calls itself "carbon neutral" and then sells those carbon credits to another company that could communicate that it accessed those credits to reduce its emissions. It is important to mention that once carbon offsets are "retired", they cannot be used for another company's or individual's emissions inventory. The problem of double counting exists and is there because of the lack of a control mechanism of the carbon market itself. 
  • There is no clear place to purchase quality carbon offsets
  • Demand is unpredictable and prices of offsets become volatile
  • Carbon sequestration projects fail to demonstrate permanence and additionality. 

 

Although the challenge to improve the carbon market is not simple, we have important allies that are growing exponentially over time. These allies are technological progress and the digital transformation we are currently experiencing. Through new technologies, the carbon market can become the climate mechanism that the planet needs. How? This article presents 3 technological pillars that will help us fight the climate crisis by improving the carbon market.

 

This first post will serve as an introduction to the 3 pillars, however, I will talk in detail about each of them in future Toroto blog posts. I call the first pillar Connectivity and Broadcasting and it is probably the simplest and most logical of the technological pillars we will talk about. We live in an era of instant communication, near real-time news and digital content that can be shared with millions of people very easily. Why not apply this to the production, maintenance and trading of carbon credits? We need to be able to connect people and companies to their environmental impact, not just through news, blogs and rustic emissions calculators. We all need to know the carbon footprint of the products we consume, the actions we take and the habits we have. How to achieve this? We need to use new tools such as IoT (Internet of Things) (which allow us to know data in real time), mobile apps and web development to bring companies and individuals closer to their carbon footprint.  In addition to the above, it is of utmost importance to disseminate information on carbon credits and quality carbon credits by answering questions such as: What are the differences between different carbon credits?, what defines the quality of a carbon credit?, where can I access quality carbon credits?, how can I communicate and certify my carbon credit purchases?

 

 

The second technological pillar we will talk about is what we at Toroto call the  Internet of Forests and this concept focuses on the monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) of forest carbon credits. How is this achieved? Through a novel combination of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), data analysis and carbon stock measurement sensors. I do not want to spoil what will be the 3rd entry in this series, however, I can advance that this pillar aims to provide information on the carbon credit production chain. It is very interesting for many companies to know the exact place where the carbon they are acquiring is being captured. In addition to knowing the location, it is possible to have geographic information of the area, greater precision in the calculations to estimate carbon stocks and therefore better projections for future batches of carbon credits. Through the  Internet of Forests we can take a step towards transparency of carbon credits.

 

 

To take the next step towards that desired transparency we come to the third pillar, and this is  Blockchain in the carbon market.  Blockchain is an emerging technology that was born with Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. The main idea with which blockchain was created is a secure, transparent, traceable and public transaction recording system. Although blockchain was born as the basis for cryptocurrencies, it has evolved enough to be applied in different sectors. Blockchain (in very basic terms) works as a shared and serialized database, with which any asset that is transferred digitally can be tracked and made transparent. Currently, blockchain is a tool used in the medical sector, education, finance and production chains. In the following posts I will discuss in detail what makes blockchain such an important ally for the carbon market and how it can provide the transparency that is currently lacking in the carbon market.

 

 

In the end, these 3 technological pillars can be the basis of a new carbon market in which we can solve some of the problems of the current functioning of said market.  Through the dissemination of data generated by the forests themselves and recorded in a blockchain, we can form a transparent and robust market in which companies and individuals can purchase quality carbon credits. The quality of a carbon credit demonstrates itself when we can know in detail the entire process, location and activities that go into generating that carbon. Improving the carbon market and resolving some of its current problems will help it fulfill its purpose as an emissions trading mechanism and contribute to capturing carbon from the atmosphere and fixing it back into the Earth, making it a key tool in the fight against the climate crisis.

SHARE

Latest stories

Business going carbon neutral

The question is no longer why should we commit? Nor why should we care? The conversation changes, and now we can begin to say we all agree to take on the path towards decarbonization.

Fighting the climate crisis with the help of emerging technologies

This article presents 3 technological pillars that will help us fight the climate crisis by improving the carbon market.