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Using technology to help meet deforestation, carbon, and methane reduction regulatory goals

Lindsey Rogerson  Senior Editor / Thomson Reuters

· 5 minute read

Lindsey Rogerson  Senior Editor / Thomson Reuters

· 5 minute read

As more governments seek to reduce levels of carbon and methane emissions while cutting deforestation, more companies are looking to technology for solutions

The European Union’s Deforestation-free Products Regulation has prompted corporations to enquire how a new satellite land-use monitoring system can help them prove they are in compliance with the new rules.

“With the EU deforestation regulation, a lot of groups are coming to us to and asking for a demonstration,” explains Dr. Sassan Saatchi, senior scientist at NASA and chief executive of California-based non-profit CTrees. “Because if you are buying cacao for chocolate from Colombia, they need to know if those farms are associated with deforestation — and Land Use Change Alerts (LUCA) can show them that.” Dr. Saatchi’s comment came at COP28 in December, held in Dubai.

The EU regulation came into effect in June and covers seven commodities (cattle, cocoa, coffee, oil palm, rubber, soya, and wood), as well as products derived from those commodities (including meat products, leather, chocolate, coffee, palm oil derivatives, glycerol, natural rubber products, soybeans, wood products, and paper).

From December 30, 2024, corporations will be banned from selling products in the EU, or exporting them, unless they are deforestation-free. Dr. Saatchi said he had also given a presentation to US groups before heading to COP28, because those groups were thinking of emulating the EU regulation.

Governments are also interested in the technology as a way of tracking their progress on climate commitments. Some 140 countries signed the deforestation pledge in Glasgow at COP26, promising to reverse or halt deforestation by 2030. However, they are not collectively on course to meet this target. According to CTrees data, deforestation across the tropics increased by about 5% in 2022, and globally, deforestation added more than 4.5 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere.

Enhancing trust in voluntary carbon markets

CTrees launched a separate platform, Jurisdictional MRV, in late-2023 to help with the reporting, monitoring, and accounting of carbon emissions. This allows users to see the emissions from deforestation, degradation, fire, and also to see carbon being removed and sequestered as a result of carbon credit projects, says Dr. Saatchi, adding that this process will enable the checking of carbon claims in voluntary carbon markets in near-real time. VERRA, a carbon credit verifier and registry, uses CTrees data to monitor projects.

 Banks and other financial institutions… will also have to monitor emissions, as will investment managers and asset owners, to ensure firms are on course to meet their commitments and avoid the risk of greenwashing.

Some 155 governments have signed the methane pledge which commits them to reducing methane emissions by 30% by 2030; and 50 governments have developed, or are developing, national methane reduction plans.

Methane has a warming potential 86-times that of CO2. As a result, cutting methane emissions will help slow global warming. The energy sector is responsible for around 40% of methane emissions caused by human activity, according to the International Energy Association, with emissions mostly caused by flaring and venting in coal, oil, and gas production.

Provisional agreement on the EU Methane Regulation was reached last month, and among other things, the regulation will place limits on methane emissions for oil and gas companies that import into the EU beginning in 2030. At COP28, 50 oil and gas firms, including Shell and BP, signed an agreement to end routine flaring.

Further, banks and other financial institutions that lend to the sector will also have to monitor emissions, as will investment managers and asset owners, to ensure firms are on course to meet their commitments and avoid the risk of greenwashing.

David Waskow, international climate director at the World Resources Institute, a non-profit in Washington, D.C., said the world now has a toolkit to hold countries and companies accountable.

Now, two satellite tracking systems can help track efforts to reduce methane being released into the atmosphere. The International Methane Emission Observatory announced the Methane Alert and Response System, a satellite-based system to detect methane emissions, at COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh. It is piloting detection of emissions from the energy sector and will expand in time to cover emissions from the waste and livestock sectors. And a separate initiative by Environmental Defense Fund, a US-based non-profit, will launch MethaneSAT next year. It will allow free monitoring of methane data by location and aims to cover 80% of the world’s oil and gas companies.

Technology in 2024 plays a vital role in both monitoring and actively reducing deforestation and methane emissions. The integration of these technologies into various sectors is crucial to achieving global environmental goals and mitigating the impacts of climate change.

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