Technology

Climate change: AI tool to harmonise global carbon trade

BDTECHNOLOGY

Despite suffering from some of the worst impacts of climate change, Africa only receives about 12 percent of the nearly $300 billion in annual financing it needs to cope, underscoring the glaring inequalities that envelop the climate debate. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

As the debate on whether large carbon emitters should be compelled to take responsibility and remit carbon offset payments to non-emitters continues to gather momentum across the globe, techies are taking the deliberation a notch higher by researching workable solutions.

During the launch of this year’s edition of the Kenya Innovation Week, Commonwealth Secretary-General (SG) Patricia Scotland told the gathering that included President William Ruto that Planet Lab, a member of a consortium drawn from tech giants in the Silicon Valley and from the Commonwealth, was working on an Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based tool that would enable the accurate measuring of amounts of carbon stored in each tree for easier calculation of amounts payable in carbon trading.

Money generator

“Every tree is a money generator due to its carbon storage capacity. The new technology means it is possible to measure the carbon amount stored in each tree,” stated Ms Scotland.

“One of our consortium members, Planet Lab, is experimenting with this idea for carbon trading to achieve net-zero goals. This means that we will move from guesstimates to accurate estimates so that when you tell others to pay carbon offset fees, you’ll now be able to know how much they should pay.”

In her address, the SG further committed to supporting the effort during this week’s COP28 meeting in Dubai, by launching a new programme for the Commonwealth dubbed the Geospatial Expertise Networking and Innovations for United Climate Solutions (Commonwealth Genius) aimed at helping leverage AI and geospatial technology as implementation tools to accelerate established commonwealth initiatives.

The revelation, coming at a time when President Ruto has intensified efforts to increase the country’s forest cover promises to boost Kenya’s revenues.

The Dr Ruto-led administration has set an ambitious target to increase Kenya’s tree cover to 28 percent up from the current 8.8 percent by 2030, as part of efforts to curb the country’s exposure to climate change hazards.

To that effect, the government targets to grow at least 15 billion trees on 11 million hectares of land across the country to offset lost trees in a plot that is in line with the country’s Vision 2030 blueprint which aims at moving Kenya to a middle-income nation.

If successful, the plans will translate into a classic case of killing two birds with one stone on account of carbon trade benefits that Kenya would be set to reap.

Biggest challenge

“The biggest challenge to the carbon credits sale is the scale. If we can use technology to enable consolidation to a point where we can account for each tree irrespective of whether it is sitting on a quarter of an acre or in a plantation, it will be a win,” observes Dr Edward Mungai, lead consultant and partner at carbon and sustainability advisory firm Impact Africa Consulting.

“The technology should help to bring about transparency on monitoring, reporting and verification. Once this is in place, our people will be able to earn carbon credits from each tree they grow and this will greatly encourage tree-planting initiatives. It might take time but this is the future,” he adds.

Multiple research reports show that despite suffering from some of the worst impacts of climate change, Africa only receives about 12 percent of the nearly $300 billion (ShSh46 trillion in current exchange rates) in annual financing it needs to cope, underscoring the glaring inequalities that envelop the climate debate.

The continent has however scored a number of wins in recent years, the highlight of which was the loss and damage initiative that was agreed on at last year’s COP27 summit in Egypt, although the implementation has been lagging.

In a general overview, climate financing has gained momentum in the recent past as shocks such as drought and floods wreak havoc, necessitating a rethink of how to build resilience, especially among developing economies such as Kenya.

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