Al Gore spearheads new initiative to track and publish every ship’s carbon footprint

Former American vice-president Al Gore has set out to track and publish data on all greenhouse gas emissions – including from shipping.

Gore is part of a new alliance of climate research groups called the Climate TRACE (Tracking Real-Time Atmospheric Carbon Emissions) Coalition, which launched this week.

The alliance is spearheaded by Gore, who wrote and starred in the 2006 environmental documentary An Inconvenient Truth, and Gavin McCormick, founder and executive director of WattTime, a California start-up now owned by Rocky Mountain Institute, which also controls the Carbon War Room. WattTime combines artificial intelligence, satellite data and other data sources to track power plant emissions.

Our work will be extremely granular in focus — down to specific power plants, ships, factories, and more

In addition to Gore and WattTime, the coalition includes another power plant focused entity, Carbon Tracker, environmental data specialist Earthrise Alliance, forest tracker Carbon Plan, agricultural research outlet Hudson Carbon, mining focused start-up Hypervine, fire tracker Blue Sky Analytics and, crucially for shipping, OceanMind, a start-up that initially focused on illegal fishing activities by tracking AISs, but has since developed its system to track all ships and, by identifying their engine specifications, extrapolate every vessel’s carbon emissions.

The new carbon tracing grouping aims to make show off its systems and data for free to the public in time for COP26, the delayed climate meetings in Glasgow, Scotland, rescheduled for November 2021, giving the world potentially unprecedented access into shipping’s carbon footprint.

We can only manage what we can measure

WattTime and UK-based Carbon Tracker applied for and won a $1.7m grant from Google’s philanthropic arm in May last year to track global power plant emissions in real time using satellite data and AI algorithms. The systems created have since been shared with other start-ups to track emissions from other industries with Gore coming onboard to help form the alliance.

“Our work will be extremely granular in focus — down to specific power plants, ships, factories, and more. Our goal is to actively track and verify all significant human-caused GHG emissions worldwide with unprecedented levels of detail and speed,” Gore and Gavin McCormick, founder of WattTime, wrote in a joint article unveiling the new alliance this week.

“Through Climate TRACE, we will equip business leaders and investors, NGOs and climate activists, as well as international, domestic, and local policy leaders with an essential tool to fully realise the economic and societal benefits of a clean energy future, while ensuring that no one — corporation, country, or otherwise — will ever again have the ability to hide or fake their emissions data,” the pair wrote.

Explaining the rationale for the new venture, Gore and McCormick wrote: “To move faster on solutions to the climate crisis, we need a better system to track emissions; we can only manage what we can measure. And unfortunately, the current state of the art is a bottom-up system that relies heavily, no matter how well implemented, on infrequent self-reporting by countries and companies, using a patchwork variety of methods. A lack of dependable, independent, third-party verification can create uncertainty on whether the data are reliable and accurate. And the long time lags in reporting reduces the ability to make that information actionable.”

The rise of WattTime and its likely focus on shipping was first flagged in the May 2019 issue of Splash Extra.

Commenting on WattTime’s planned move to focus on shipping, Di Gilpin, founder of the Smart Green Shipping Alliance, told Splash Extra last year: “Shipowners should brace for an era of unprecedented transparency of their carbon footprint, and being able to measure those emissions, or lack of them, enables technology developers to devise novel financing solutions for those adopting clean power solutions.”

In related news, Marseille-based SeaRoutes has just launched its first CO2 emissions application programming interface (API) to make accurate data available to logistics stakeholders.

SeaRoutes’ new API has been designed to help businesses achieve their CO​2​ emissions reporting goals. The API claims to make CO2 monitoring simpler, providing the logistics industry with a decision-making tool to tackle sustainability issues.

The solution considers carriers schedules and uses AIS to get the relevant parameters in the calculation of CO2 emissions such as fuel, engine load, real distances and speed. SeaRoutes further enriches this with its own data including weather at sea, currents and waves.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. This all looks and sounds like Big Brother intrusion. on spurious grounds

    The biggest polluters are cars, trucks and aircraft plus home/office heating and cooling. The shipping industry is very efficient in terms of fuel used per ton/km of cargo moved. Is this to be replaced by sailing vessels and do we all retreat to caves and live cold, dark and disease ridden lives. I think not. The US is one of the biggest users of energy per capita and it needs to look to its own position before wagging its finger at others. Physician…heal thyself as someone famously sad. .

    1. biggest polluter is the agriculture industry and you will NEVER find a single politician willing to undercut their voter base by banning cheap meat using GMO animals. Methane gas and the agri industry literally results in deforestation and animals being held in disgusting conditions which we consume. The lobbyists in turn push laws protecting them. To Al Gore aka “The Sigh” it`s all very simple in his world making 200m off the back of this eco trend wave and like all government organisations always push the agenda on the private sector “to figure out”.

      Meanwhile try convincing one of these hippies they should be paying 4,000 USD for their TVs because of all this new super duper tech shipowners have to retrofit their ships with, that`ll come over well.

      To be honest Shipowners are stupid, they should freely offer NGOs to install anything they want if they underwrite it and get the Big 500 to sign off ensuring this is paid for. I`d kick the ball right back to them. We should be ahead of this and not responding to everything

  2. Al Gore is a phony who has mad e a fortune in at best, skeptical science. Sad to see he is involve din the maritimes.

  3. Great news! Satellites can now pinpoint individual emitters. GHGSat will soon launch a satellite with quite high resolution. If this information is publicly available, local governments can make use of it.

    Yes, it’s a challenge for us to reduce carbon pollution. I am sure we all want a liveable planet for our kids.

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