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Microsoft Joins UN Initiative To Improve Carbon Emissions Accounting

One of the biggest challenges in reducing carbon emissions is getting an accurate reading of emissions to begin with. The process involves carbon accounting or measuring emissions related to a particular product, service, or organization. But reliable readings are not always easy to come by.

An analysis published by The Washington Post in November found that the gap in underreported GHG emissions “ranges from at least 8.5 billion to as high as 13.3 billion tons a year.” That’s a meaningful gap, underscoring the importance of getting improved data to launch more effective solutions to mitigate our changing climate.

Photo Courtesy CarbonCall

In an effort to effectively bridge this gap, a new initiative called Carbon Call aims to accelerate the development of a more reliable carbon emissions accounting system to help the world achieve net-zero by midcentury.

The initiative was announced in February with participation from more than 20 companies and organizations, including Microsoft, Capricorn Investment Group, the United Nations Environment Programme, the Linux Foundation, and the United Nations Foundation.

Carbon Call plans to mobilize action, investment, and resources from various organizations – including scientific, corporate, philanthropic, and governmental – to enable reliable and up-to-date data and science access that can be easily exchanged among carbon accounting systems.

In a press release, the initiative outlined numerous problems facing current carbon accounting processes: data quality issues, measurement and reporting inconsistencies, siloed platforms, and infrastructure challenges. This makes it difficult to compare, combine and share reliable data – particularly for businesses.

Carbon Call aims to uncover and address gaps in existing global carbon accounting systems, focusing on carbon removal. The initiative will work to identify where more accurate information is needed to produce more reliable data in terms of carbon accounting reports and the data ecosystems that support them.

“We invest billions of dollars into climate solutions, and we are now deploying significant capital into carbon removal in order to meet our net zero commitment,” Ion Yadigaroglu, managing partner at Capricorn Investment Group, said in a statement. “But this only registers at the scale of the climate crisis if we can keep track of the global balance between greenhouse gas emissions and removals. We are joining Carbon Call in order to support the creation of a transparent and science-based ledger for carbon accounting. This will be an important building block for net-zero investing.”

Photo Courtesy Tyler Casey

Along with being a participating organization, Capricorn is one of seven signatories enlisted to track Carbon Call’s progress. The other signatories are Deloitte, Ernst & Young, GlaxoSmithKline, KPMG, Microsoft, and Wipro. Signatories will commit to filing comprehensive and transparent reports annually on GHG emissions and offset information, including all scopes and classes of emissions.

Carbon Call lists three main priorities in terms of collective action, investment, and resources:   

  1. Expand transparent, comprehensive, and regular reporting of greenhouse gas emissions.  
  2. Support underlying reliable data and science that produces comparable, combinable, and shareable information.  
  3. Enable open and efficient assessment of companies’ carbon accounting, interoperable accounting infrastructure, and support integration into national and global greenhouse gas emissions inventories.   

Having a major corporate player like Microsoft on board has undoubtedly raised the initiative’s profile. For its part, Microsoft says there is an urgent need for the kind of work Carbon Call plans to undertake.

“We can’t fix what we can’t measure, and reliable measurement and accounting of greenhouse gas emissions is critical to climate accountability and attribution,” Microsoft Chief Environmental Officer Lucas Joppa said in a blog on the company’s website.


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