Catalytic Philanthropic Investment Helps Make Methane and CO2 Data Public

Published on: Apr 18, 2024

In March, Planet Labs PBC announced it has signed a multi-year data-license agreement with Carbon Mapper to provide us with hyperspectral core imagery until 2030.

This agreement is made possible by initial funding by a major climate philanthropy and kicks off an ambitious campaign to raise additional funds that will enable Carbon Mapper to use observations from Planet’s Tanager satellites specific to methane and CO2 to quantify super-emitting sources globally and make their methane emissions data publicly available on our data portal and work with key decision makers to help them use the data to take action to reduce emissions.

With the launch of the first Tanager satellite in 2024, the Carbon Mapper Coalition will expand emissions observations from space.

An ongoing partnership

In 2021, Carbon Mapper — backed by its philanthropic supporters — assembled a public-private coalition, including Planet Labs and others, to develop and deploy a groundbreaking hyperspectral satellite constellation with the ability to detect, pinpoint, and quantify methane and CO2 emissions at the scale of individual facilities. Alongside the Coalition, Planet plans to launch the first Tanager — a hyperspectral satellite designed to capture hyperspectral imagery across the visible and shortwave infrared regions (VSWIR) — in 2024.

Beyond methane and CO2 detection, Tanager is designed to track a range of environmental indicators, and Planet plans to offer commercial data products that address a wide-range of potential use cases across commercial, civil, and defense applications.

This agreement empowers Carbon Mapper to continue to deliver publicly available methane and CO2 data — ensuring it is accessible to anyone, anywhere in the world. It also lays the groundwork for further expansion of the constellation of Tanager satellites by Planet.

The power of accessible methane and CO2 data

Carbon Mapper is committed to expanding methane and CO2 emissions transparency to help industry, governments, and communities improve greenhouse gas accounting, expedite repair of leaks, support disaster response, and make gains toward a better climate future.

There’s a growing body of evidence that when decision makers are provided with accessible information on the exact source of emissions, they often act on it. The California Methane Surveys offer a powerful example. Our data is also used to develop insights that raise societal understanding of methane emissions (see our most recent studies covering oil and gas emissions in Nature), underpin tools designed to help specific stakeholders make informed decisions about reduction opportunities (such as RMI’s WasteMAP), and help government officials to evaluate where emissions are coming from and how policies and regulations can move the needle (such as our collaboration with the government of Chile).

More investment is needed

These examples are just the tip of the iceberg in what’s possible when we invest in gathering reliable emissions intelligence as our foundation to smart and effective climate action. Once Tanager launches and Carbon Mapper begins receiving Planet’s data, we will be able to significantly scale up what’s available on our public data portal — building upon the thousands of methane and CO2 plumes already available today and getting this into the hands of decision makers — so we can act to reduce emissions more quickly and effectively.

“We are grateful for the support of our philanthropic donors whose investment is helping us take the next leap forward and procure the data that is foundational to delivering on our mission to drive greenhouse gas emissions reductions by making methane and CO2 data accessible and actionable,” said Riley Duren, Carbon Mapper CEO. “While donor funding has stepped in to fill a critical gap, it’s time that governments rise to the challenge to fund more comprehensive and sustained emissions monitoring systems.”

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Spectroscopy is broadly defined as the study of how electromagnetic energy interacts with matter. There are many different methods that use the principles of spectroscopy to detect, identify, and quantify data about matter including gasses, liquids, and solids.

Spectrometers are instruments that measure this interaction between these different materials and energy.