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News - Climate TRACE

More Than 70,000 of the Highest Emitting Greenhouse Gas Sources Identified in Largest Available Global Emissions Inventory

Nov 09, 2022
By Climate TRACE

—Half of the 50 largest sources of emissions are oil and gas production fields and their associated facilities. 

—The top 500 sources represent less than 1% of the total Climate TRACE inventory but account for 14% of global emissions for 2021 – more than the annual emissions of the United States.

—Globally, emissions from oil and gas production are significantly underreported, with Climate TRACE data showing that of the countries required to report regularly to the UNFCCC, emissions are as much as three times higher. 

—Climate TRACE’s comprehensive country-by-country data — now updated to include 2021 annual information — provides timely emissions inventories for every party to the Paris Agreement.

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, EGYPT | 9 NOVEMBER 2022 — Today, the Climate TRACE coalition released the most detailed facility-level global inventory of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to date, including emissions data for 72,612 individual sources worldwide. The 70,000+ individual sites — including specific power plants, steel mills, urban road networks, and oil and gas fields — represent the top known sources of emissions in the power sector, oil and gas production and refining, shipping, aviation, mining, waste, agriculture, road transportation, and the production of steel, cement, and aluminum.

Today’s data release also expands and updates country- and sector-level emissions to include 2021 data following last year’s release of such data for the period 2015–2020, while also incorporating the ability to examine the data by different GHGs (e.g., carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide) and global warming potentials (GWPs). It provides a full view of annual GHG emissions since 2015 — the year of the Paris Agreement.

Unveiled at COP27, where international negotiators are focused on identifying ways to accelerate the implementation of global climate goals, this new information — sourced independently and primarily based on direct observations of activity rather than self-reported data — provides the detail and timeliness needed to inform and accelerate decarbonization decisions worldwide. World leaders, CEOs, investors, journalists, and activists can track progress toward net-zero goals and prioritize where they can achieve the greatest impact.

“The climate crisis can, at times, feel like an intractable challenge – in large part because we’ve had a limited understanding of precisely where emissions are coming from,” said former U.S. Vice President and Climate TRACE founding member Al Gore. “This level of granularity means that we finally have emissions data that enable us to act decisively. It also means we can prioritize efforts to achieve the deep cuts in greenhouse gas pollution we need to prevent the most catastrophic impacts of the climate crisis.”

Facility-level precision: a global emissions view comprising individual emitters

As the first global inventory to identify and track the largest individual sources of emissions across twenty major sectors of the economy, Climate TRACE’s dataset – which is available publicly and at no cost – is illuminating the outsized role of a handful of individual sources on global emissions.

The top 500 individual sources of emissions worldwide represent less than 1% of total facilities in Climate TRACE’s dataset yet accounted for 14% of global emissions in 2021, more than the annual emissions of the United States. Power plants alone represent more than half of the emissions and three-fifths of the assets in the top 500 list. Meanwhile, 26 of the 50 largest sources of emissions worldwide are oil and gas fields (and their associated production, processing, and transportation sites).

"The release of this massive dataset represents the combined efforts of more than 100 contributing organizations worldwide,” said Gavin McCormick, founder and executive director of Climate TRACE convening member WattTime. “Between us all, we’ve been able to estimate the emissions of nearly all the largest emitting facilities on the planet. Our work is far from done, but I’ve been thrilled to hear from climate negotiators, corporate sustainability teams, investors looking to decarbonize, climate scientists, and even activists that this information is already a game changer that can help them make better decisions and decarbonize faster."

Sector-level spotlights: uncovering ‘missing,’ overlooked, and undercounted emissions

In no sector is the power of Climate TRACE’s emissions monitoring approach more apparent than in oil and gas. Last year’s Climate TRACE inventory found that emissions from oil and gas production, transport, and refining had been significantly underestimated — owing, in part, to limited reporting requirements and consistent underestimates of methane emissions from both intentional flaring as well as leaks. Climate TRACE has incorporated new data — including evidence from studies of satellite-detected emissions from practices like flaring and methane leakage in places like Russia, Turkmenistan, the U.S., and the Middle East — to produce updated emissions data that more fully account for the sector’s global emissions. Among the top countries that report their oil and gas production emissions to the UN, Climate TRACE finds emissions are as much as three times higher than self-reported data.

Country-level comprehensiveness: filling in data gaps to empower policymaking

Climate TRACE harnesses breakthroughs in satellite coverage, remote sensing, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML) to not only directly spot sources of GHG emissions, but to also detect and analyze emitting activities that are otherwise invisible or undetectable. The resulting global inventory, first released in September 2021, presents a more complete view of global emissions for every country and across more sectors than previously available.

As of the end of October, no nation has submitted a complete accounting of its emissions for 2021 to the UNFCCC. 52 countries have not submitted any emissions inventories covering the past ten years. Climate TRACE’s database provides emissions information from 2015-2021 for every party to the Paris Agreement, as well as dozens of additional territories. Climate TRACE’s updated inventory adds emissions data for 2021 and provides additional sub-sector specificity to national inventories. 

Built on a model of continual improvement, Climate TRACE will steadily become more comprehensive and timely

Climate TRACE harnesses artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyze data from more than 300 satellites, more than 11,100 air-, land-, and sea-based sensors, and troves of additional public and commercial information, developing the first global, independent emissions inventory based primarily on direct observation. 

By training AI to spot sometimes subtle differences in satellite imagery and other data patterns, Climate TRACE is able to independently analyze and calculate emissions from individual sources the human eye and traditional monitoring methods may miss. Combining these technological advances with the latest research on emitting sectors, Climate TRACE brings increased understanding and precision to emissions tracking. As more data are input into AI and machine learning models, they become more precise over time.

Climate TRACE leverages a different approach for each sector, applying existing expertise to new observations in a way that is tailored to reflect the unique aspects of individual emitting industries. For each sector, detailed methodology documents share information on data inputs, modeling, and relevant peer-reviewed research. All Climate TRACE emissions data are free and publicly available. The coalition strives to make its models and as much non-proprietary underlying data publicly available whenever possible.

In the next year, Climate TRACE will expand and refine its facility-level inventory from at least the top 500+ sources of emissions per sector represented in the Q4 2022 edition of the inventory to cover every major industrial-scale source of emissions in the world.

Climate TRACE is a nonprofit coalition of AI specialists, data scientists, researchers, and nongovernment organizations 

The Climate TRACE inventory was jointly created by 10 coalition members (Blue Sky Analytics, Carbon Yield, Earthrise Media, Former Vice President Al Gore, Hypervine.io, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab, OceanMind, RMI, TransitionZero, and WattTime) plus over 90 other contributing organizations and researchers, including: Carbon Mapper, CTREES, Descartes Labs, Global Energy Monitor, Google.org, Michigan State University, Minderoo Foundation/Global Plastic Watch, Planet Labs PBC, Synthetaic, Universiti Malaysia Terengganu, and others.

The complete Climate TRACE inventory is available at climatetrace.org.

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