Pachama: Diego Uses Artificial Intelligence to Make Carbon Offsets Count

Combining satellite imagery, machine learning and boots-on-the-ground, Pachama is creating a means of certifying carbon markets are transparent and efficient.

October 6, 2020


Pachama uses machine learning with satellite imaging to measure carbon captured in forests. This technology is used for remote verification and monitoring, providing a new standard of assurance in the impact of these investments.


Lex Kiefhaber, Anthony Noto

It's easy to say you can see the forest from the trees, easier still if you deploy a fleet of satellites using bleeding edge artificial intelligence and machine learning to count the leaves on the trees in the forests. Well, not actually, but almost. 

Diego Saez-Gil, CEO and founder of Pachama, joins us this week to reveal the methodology - and purpose- behind his revolutionary start up. Here's the basic problem: companies want to claim (and in some instances truly be) carbon neutrality, and the most expedient means of getting there is to account for their carbon footprint then offset it through purchasing carbon credits on the exchange. Many well intentioned companies have also committed to reducing the total amount of their carbon since inception, notably, Google. In order to do that, even if Google went 100% renewable energy w/zero carbon outlays from tomorrow on, they'd still need to remove carbon you put into the atmosphere from the past, which would require taking carbon out of the atmosphere. The most efficient means of doing so is, and will likely continue to be for a long time,  planting. a tree. 

But, how do we know that tree really got planted? Or, how can we be sure it wasn't cut down, if the offset was used to purchase a woodland that would have otherwise been felled for timber? This is where Pachama comes in. They certify that the carbon offsets companies buy- largely trees or other plants either already existing or seeded presently- are truly extracting the carbon that they were intended to. You can imagine how easy it would be to promise not to clear cut a remote part of the Amazon, get paid for that promise, then turn around and clear cut it anyway selling the timber. Who's going to venture that far into the jungle to check, and by the time they get there you'd be long gone. 

Pachama leverages satellites and sophisticated computer engineering to remotely monitor these remote sectors of the world, ensure the carbon offsets are legitimate, and reward good actors for the work they do. Their creating markets, bringing together the sellers of the future with the buyers of past sins. It's truly good work they do, and we're honored to have them in our WSTP family. 


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