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Climate Fight Goes Into Orbit With Space Carbon Monitoring

Eric Roston and Naomi Nix

(Bloomberg) -- Much of the fight against climate change is occurring not in the streets or national legislatures, but in technology companies and industry groups that are seeking data needed to manage the problem.

The Bloomberg Global Business Forum opened in New York Wednesday with the announcement of two major initiatives, including one on ways satellites can be used to monitor carbon emissions.

The event began just two hours after the world’s most authoritative climate-science body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, issued a dire report on how the declining state of the oceans and the world’s melting icy regions pose harm to human societies.

Participants in the forum said measuring the problem is key to solving it.

Planet Labs Inc. co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Will Marshall pledged data from his Earth-imaging company in an initiative called “Satellites for Climate Action” that aims to provide precise information on greenhouse gas emissions.

“There is a huge data emergency,” Marshall said. “We need to have the data to be able do something.”

The satellite collaboration is designed to bring together governments, technology companies and philanthropies. It will take advantage of sensing technology that Planet Labs and other companies are creating to detect emissions and aid in the conservation of forests, coral reefs and other resources.

“Data is one of the most powerful tools we have in the fight against climate change,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York and the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Climate Action, in a written statement. “The better we can measure factors like greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation, the faster and more effectively we can address them, and the easier it is for the public to hold leaders accountable.”

READ MORE: New Satellite Wave Could Pinpoint Greenhouse Gas Offenders

Satellites for Climate Action is a collaboration among Bloomberg, California Governor Gavin Newsom and San Francisco-based Planet Labs. Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.

The new collaboration is high-profile but not the only one seeking to enhance the data needed to combat climate change. MetaneSAT LLC, a subsidiary of the nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund, on Monday announced an agreement with Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. to build an advanced sensing instrument, part of a satellite that will be able to find and measure methane emissions anywhere on earth.

Another Bloomberg-led organization, the Climate Finance Leadership Initiative, announced a partnership to ensure the financial industry is focused on directing and scaling finance to help bolster infrastructure and portfolios for a warming world. The CFLI and the Association of European Development together will help develop climate finance needed in emerging nations, where clean-energy investment is relatively low and concentrated in just a few markets.

Thirty-one low-income countries have drawn just 0.1% of clean-energy investments so far, according to a CFLI report this month.

As the UN report reinforced, the nations most likely to suffer from climate change are the ones who are least responsible for historical emissions and have the least resources to confront the challenges.

(Updates with low-income countries data in 12th paragraph. A previous version of this article incorrectly described the focus of CFLI.)

To contact the reporters on this story: Eric Roston in New York at eroston@bloomberg.net;Naomi Nix in Washington at nnix1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jon Morgan at jmorgan97@bloomberg.net, John Harney

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