How satellites can increase carbon market transparency

Spotlight on data from one of our partners, Planet

Published in
2 min readSep 8, 2020


Forests are critical for our sustained life on Earth. They act as the lungs of our planet, providing crucial levels of oxygen and retiring carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Maintaining and expanding our forests is key to tackling climate change. One way to fund forest projects is through carbon markets. Landowners and project developers earn carbon credits equal to the carbon that the forest sequesters. By doing so, forest carbon projects help mitigate climate change by utilizing the natural CO2 sequestration of trees.

As promising as carbon markets are, new technology and transparency are needed to make them successful.

Why Transparency?

Historically, forest carbon projects have attracted skepticism around the ability to permanently capture CO2 by trees and monitor for disturbances. This is partially due to the fact measurements have traditionally been completed by hand, every 3–5 years. And, with some forest carbon projects expanding over the size of an entire city or small country, it has been very challenging to provide continuous and expansive oversight.

Pachama believes all supporters of forest projects could use more accessible and reliable information about forest projects.

Among landowners, with projects spanning the size of cities, it’s hard to detect disturbances, such as illegal logging or wildfires, in real-time. Forest managers need tools to be alerted early to potential problems. Such an early alert system can allow managers to better tackle issues such as deforestation and insect damage, ultimately mitigating risk.

Carbon credit purchasers deserve better information to verify the legitimacy of a projects’ claims and performance over time. We believe new satellite technology can create more accurate information that is both verifiable by third parties, and transparent and digestible for consumers.

Forest landscape overlaid with Pachama’s technology for carbon assessment.

Our partnership with Planet

Our partnership with Planet, a leading provider of global, satellite imagery data, provides high-quality, powerful imagery that enables us to validate and monitor carbon projects. Planet’s high-resolution SkySat imagery provides cutting edge temporal and spatial resolution over each of Pachama’s carbon projects, allowing us to monitor and verify the amount of carbon sequestered in a project’s forest today.

Pachama also hopes to use SkySat’s stereo-viewing capabilities to develop three-dimensional maps of the forest. By imaging the Earth from several angles, Planet’s SkySat satellites can be used to reconstruct height maps of the forest canopy. Pachama hopes to use these to better infer forest carbon, and reduce dependency on other, more expensive, means of imaging.

This partnership advances forest monitoring of carbon projects worldwide. Using new data, Pachama can increase the transparency and validity of global carbon markets, allowing companies to compensate their CO2 emissions with the reassurance that they are making a meaningful and measurable difference to forest protection and restoration.

Take a look for yourself at the projects Pachama is working with today.