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Removal in action: How Antti Vihavainen is growing the engineered carbon removal market

By News, Tech in Action

Antti Vihavainen is certain. He is sure that hope alone will not solve the climate crisis. For Antti, hope must always be accompanied by action if a true impact is to be made. It is on this firm belief that his company, Puro.earth, was founded in 2018. Ever since, Puro.earth has been actively expanding the tech-based carbon removals sector with a carbon crediting program dedicated to engineered carbon removal. 

Engineered carbon removal differs from nature-based carbon removal. Rather than investing in natural carbon sinks, such as forests and soil, engineered carbon removal uses technology to draw and store greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Methods including carbon capture and storage (CCS) and direct air capture (DAC) store the emissions they remove securely, often in vast underground geologic formations. 

In the past five years, Puro.earth has validated the technological removal activities of more than 50 companies and facilitated the sale of verified credits to corporate stakeholders to support their decarbonisation strategies. Here, Antti shares his motivations and reveals how Puro.earth is scaling the engineered carbon removal market.

Can you introduce yourself and explain why you decided to found Puro.earth?

In 2017, it became apparent to me. I realised the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) was already too high. Although I’ve always been interested in the climate, this was a pivotal moment for me. I realised that our emissions reduction efforts were simply not fast enough and that humanity faced an unprecedented, runaway climate catastrophe.

Yet, there was something else I recognised. While emissions soared, more and more research was being conducted into technological methods for removing carbon from the atmosphere. But something was missing – these engineered climate solutions were not being sufficiently commercialised. With the climate crisis at our door, I wanted to explore the commercialisation of tech-based carbon removal with the aim of facilitating the growth of new, net-negative carbon industries. So in 2018, I co-founded Puro.earth, the first carbon crediting program focused exclusively on technology-driven carbon removals.

Could you say more on the problem you seek to solve?

Puro.earth solves the very same issues that first drew me to the world of engineered carbon removal. With such extensive research into these technologies, I had identified a real need for commercialisation. So, first and foremost, Puro.earth is a platform dedicated to harmonising the climate effects of different carbon removal methods. In this way, Puro.earth assists in the overall scaling of engineered carbon removal. We want to help the removals market grow in efficiency and enable more companies to embark on a science-based pathway to reach a state of net-zero emissions. 

Since we launched, Puro.earth has pioneered several of the world’s first crediting methodologies for engineered carbon removal. While we bring together a range of removal activities, our criteria always remains the same. We look for methods which can be scientifically verified; that durably capture and store CO2 for 100+ years and which have the potential to scale industrially. We believe that in facilitating corporate engagement with engineered carbon removal, we can drive the development of a strong, carbon net-negative economy. It’s our aim to galvanise further investment in these technologies. 

Let’s get technical: How does your product work?

Our Puro.earth platform brings together suppliers of carbon net-negative technologies and climate-conscious companies. We have developed our own Puro Standard with which to verify CO2 Removal Certificates (CORCs). Each CORC represents one tonne of CO2 that has been removed from the atmosphere via an engineered method and stored long-term in carbon net-negative processes or products. 

We are particularly proud of our Puro Standard for it is the first to assess carbon credits generated exclusively from such tech-based removal activities. The methodologies of the Puro Standard are science-based and durable, meaning that companies can depend on them for precise emission compensation. To maintain independence, the Puro Standard is managed by an Advisory Board which oversees any proposed changes to its rules and requirements.

On our platform, buyers can browse the available tech-based carbon removal suppliers and explore purchase options. However, buyers do not purchase CORCs through Puro.earth. Instead they negotiate an agreement directly with an accredited CORC supplier or via our network of carbon marketplaces connected to our registry. CORCs can either be bought as a spot purchase or as an advance market commitment. In the latter, the buyer agrees to purchase CORCs that will be verified in the future. Known as Pre-CORCs, these are certificates that allow companies to pre-pay for validated projections of engineered CO2 removal. Only after such a carbon removal has been independently verified are Pre-CORCs converted into CORCs.

Can you share a story of success?

In the five years since our launch, we have grown to be the world’s leading crediting platform for engineered carbon removal. Now, more than 50 companies have issued CORCs and are selling them directly to corporations or via the carbon marketplaces connected to our registry. 

It is hard to choose just one story of success because throughout 2023 we have formed numerous partnerships and made agreements with other companies in the engineered removals space! In July, we announced our CORCs would be available on Xpansiv’s CBL Spot Exchange platform, while in September  we signed an agreement with the carbon capture company, Climeworks. Moreover, we are working to develop Africa’s first DAC facility with Octavia Carbon and Cella. We consider such collaborations to be essential in the expansion of the tech-based removals market.

And finally, what’s next for Puro.earth? 

There’s so much innovation happening within the climate space that we are constantly impressed with the suggestions we are given the opportunity to assess. Amid so much fast-paced transformation, we expect to jump one order of magnitude in the next 18 months and make a second leap by 2027.

 

Disclaimer: Respira International does not have any undisclosed affiliation with Puro.earth. Read more about Puro.earth here.

Biomass in action: Why CEO Marco Albani founded Chloris Geospatial

By Tech in Action

In the first of our Tech in Action  series, we speak to Marco Albani, the Co-Founder and CEO of Chloris Geospatial. Established in 2021, the company is operating at the intersection of space-tech and nature-tech. Using advanced machine learning, artificial intelligence and sensor-fusion, the team at Chloris Geospatial can directly measure vegetation dynamics on earth, from space.

Can you introduce yourself and explain why you decided to found Chloris Geospatial?

Although I trained as a forest scientist, I spent much of the last 20 years working in sustainability and on climate change solutions for business. Time and again, I saw action hindered by a shortage of good operational-scale data and by a lack of understanding of how changes in land use impact the volumes of carbon stored in the earth’s vegetation. Businesses needed greater awareness of the impacts of their activities on the natural world. So, not only did I know there was space, but also a pressing need for a solution. 

I knew that Dr. Alessandro Baccini, Chief Scientist and co-founder of Chloris Geospatial, had been working on the science side of this issue for over 20 years. He was using remote sensing data to directly estimate the carbon stored in vegetation and forest. While we each came to the challenge from a different angle, we both recognised the importance of making this science available to the market – both at scale and at the speed of business. 

With a growing number of companies starting to take responsibility for their impact on climate and nature, we knew we needed to make our Chloris accounting system easy-to-access and reliable. In this way, we could help new players understand and visualise the carbon stored in forests and vegetation. This was the belief on which we founded Chloris Geospatial.

Could you say more on the problem you seek to solve?

Fundamentally, healthy economies are underpinned by natural capital, such as our forests and grasslands. So, for the global economy to strengthen and achieve a state of net-zero carbon by 2050, we must comprehensively conserve and restore these ecosystems.

At Chloris Geospatial, our mission is to accelerate the transition to a net-zero and nature-positive future. The way we do it is by making it easier for businesses to understand their impact on nature. We are aware that all businesses and corporations are facing the challenge of transitioning to a net-zero and nature-positive economy, which is why we are determined to make access to carbon data, and its insights, both fast and easy. 

At present, our primary focus is on companies operating in the voluntary carbon market and supply chain companies in the food, land use and agriculture sector. Here, the Chloris technology is enabling a real paradigm shift for the measurement of forest carbon. It brings unprecedented integrity, speed and scalability to the voluntary carbon market and to the measurement of the climate performance of forest carbon projects. In just a few hours, we can generate biomass predictions for anywhere in the world.

Our logic at Chloris Geospatial is that if business leaders can access high integrity accounting on natural capital, they need no longer question the carbon calculations on which their investments are based. Equipped with reliable, trust-worthy data, they are free to focus on taking effective action for climate and nature by accelerating investments in nature-based solutions while, at the same time, being able to cost effectively monitor impact with confidence. 

Let’s get technical: How does your product work?

Today, we are the leading company in the market to deliver what is referred to as direct measurement of above-ground carbon stock and change from space. The data we deliver is empirical, spatially explicit, wall-to-wall and comes with quantified uncertainty at the pixel-level. This means, we do not use the average emission factors and area-based estimates that standard remote-sensing approaches are reliant upon. 

Unlike those standard approaches – and thanks to our scientific, machine-learning and software innovations – we see all above-ground carbon changes over very large areas. We can spot carbon emissions from large-scale deforestation, degradation, disturbances and fires. More encouragingly, we also observe the carbon removals as a result of reforestation or restoration. That is why we say that ‘we see what the atmosphere sees’. 

When you unpick this statement, it means that we measure (and annually update) the volume of carbon in and carbon out, for every pixel on the planet, since the year 2000. This is what really matters for the credible carbon accounting that a credible transition to net-zero requires.

As I mentioned, the Chloris Platform is built on the work and experience of Dr. Alessandro Baccini. As a pioneer in measuring forest carbon stock and change from space, he has been instrumental in building our technology. Our data products are based on the fusion of datasets from public Earth Observation missions, including data from NASA’s ICESat GLAS and GEDI instruments, from the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 satellites, and from the United States Geological Survey’s Landsat satellites. 

To provide global coverage that incorporates geographic variation in vegetation types and structure, our models are trained at continental scale and capture geographic variations in allometry (the relationship between size and characteristics). Our models also capture the relationships between above ground biomass and remote sensing measurements. Once collected, our data is processed and delivered via the Chloris Platform, which is our cloud-native software infrastructure that deploys data at the speed of business, in a scalable and cost-effective manner. To ensure these high standards are maintained, we make both automated and manual assessments using proprietary benchmarks and publicly available data products.

As a result of the machine-learning and advances in artificial intelligence made by our science and engineering teams, our Platform provides accurate data and insights quickly and at large scale. Our machine learning models are anchored in state-of-the-art data science. They filter and pre-process input data for both quality and representativeness, and create novel predictive features that underpin our mapping algorithms. 

Arguably there is nothing new to use satellites to observe and measure forests, but the current standard approaches have serious limitations. We are pleased to overcome these at Chloris Geospatial and to bring to the market a solution that is able to visualise changes in biomass not only from degradation and deforestation, but also by the slow, steady re-growth of trees.

Can you share a story of success?

From very early on in our start-up journey, Permian Global was a dedicated adopter of our technology, trusting our data for their project development and MRV work in Indonesia. Gaining the trust of such a leading project developer was very encouraging. 

More recently, we have expanded our customer base for large scale work in the voluntary carbon market and in the food, land use and agriculture sectors. The opportunity to demonstrate our technology at these very large scales has been extremely positive for us.

On the product and science side, we are delighted to have achieved a big milestone this year. Since June 2023, we have been able to deliver spatially explicit, annual above-ground biomass stock and change data at 30 m resolution going back to the year 2000. Not only is this data extremely comprehensive, but also has full temporal and spatial consistency and scalability. This longer time series means we can gather more robust data on degradation and growth trends of above-ground biomass. As a result, we have significantly improved our ability to meet the needs of project developers and other actors who are screening and assessing high quality opportunities for avoidance and removals projects. 

Finally, what’s next for Chloris Geospatial?

We are not resting on our laurels! At the moment, we are continuing to develop our product to make it an even greater turnkey solution for REDD+ and ARR applications – both for developers and investors.

But, as a data company fully-focused on tracking natural capital performance over time, our attention isn’t limited to carbon. We see the measurement of biodiversity and water as viable, future opportunities for us and believe that such data would truly help communicate the value of nature conservation and restoration to businesses. Indeed, we see such measurements as essential if we are to build a net-zero and nature-positive economy.

 

 

Disclaimer: Respira International does not have any undisclosed affiliation with Chloris Geospatial, we are just interested admirers of their work and the way it aligns with ours. Find out more about Chloris Geospatial here.

Carbon Credits

Coming soon: Tech in Action

By Tech in Action

Technology is truly crucial for mitigating climate change and preserving our natural world. But although many of us understand this vast and emerging potential, far fewer are aware of the cutting-edge tech innovations already moving us closer to our environmental goals.

Enter our new series: Tech in Action. In every article, we will interview a leading climate or nature tech entrepreneur to highlight the latest developments in the world of tech.

Why now?

As a venture-backed, carbon finance business, we are focused on scaling high-quality, nature-based carbon solutions. Throughout our work, we have witnessed first-hand how climate and nature technologies are building on – and complementing – the hard work carried out across our sector to strengthen the integrity and transparency of the voluntary carbon market. Now, we would like to amplify these solutions and draw attention to positive, successful examples of climate action. 

What to expect?

In this series, you will hear from business leaders at all levels. From project developers to end-buyers, we reveal why each felt inspired to turn to tech. While shining a light on the specific problems each solution seeks to solve, this series is also an opportunity to learn about technicalities. How does the technology actually work? And how have these products brought environmental success? 

For all this and more, stay tuned for the first instalment of our Tech in Action series. Set for publication on the 12th of September, you will hear from Marco Albani, the Co-Founder and CEO of Chloris Geospatial. Utilising advanced machine learning, artificial intelligence and sensor-fusion, Chloris Geospatial directly measures vegetation dynamics on earth, from space. 

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