Carbon Sources

Our efforts span across multiple systems and sources of emissions.


The food we grow and consume is a key source of emissions.

Agricultural production accounts for about 11% of all US greenhouse gas emissions, mostly in the form of methane from livestock and nitrous oxide from soil management.  Mitigating and reducing these emissions can be challenging: few point sources exist, and most are at relatively low concentrations. 

In agricultural systems, it is also critical that emissions reduction projects engage local communities to address corresponding concerns around air and water quality and human health. Initial Lab efforts have focused on opportunities to deploy immediately available, commercialized technology for emissions reductions, and to support the research and development of new approaches.

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Areas of Opportunity

Innovation and R&D

Effectively tackling emissions from the agricultural sector requires new technologies capable of destroying or capturing dispersed, low-concentration emissions. The most effective technologies will effectively target and destroy methane and nitrous oxide. A complementary strategy is also to modify agricultural practices to prevent emissions in the first place, such as changing fertilizer application routines. Our current Lab research supports the development of such approaches, testing the viability of new technologies and evaluating feasibility for scaling into field conditions.

Expanding Mitigation

Many existing methane abatement strategies, such as anaerobic digesters that convert manure and waste to biogas, are currently accessible only to larger farms. This excludes a considerable swath of small or mid-sized dairy and cattle operations, and misses abating their significant cumulative emissions. Expanding understanding of manure management techniques, such as covering lagoons to capture and flare their methane, has been a focus area for the Lab.

Forgotten GHGs

The high warming potential of nitrous oxide (N2O) means that any reduction of emissions of this gas can have a significant climate impact. Although agricultural N2O is emitted primarily from soil management activities like synthetic fertilizer application. Livestock manure management and use are also meaningful sources. We are exploring methods of quantifying and accounting for N2O destruction in manure management projects to better capture their total impact and improve their financial feasibility for farmers.


The energy sector is a major source of emissions - and a major opportunity for abatement.

In the US, the energy sector accounts for around 4.8 billion MTCO2e worth of emissions annually. Combustion of fossil fuels make up most of that number – 4.5 billion MTCO2e, and transitioning to renewables remains the highest priority for decarbonization. As the broader energy transition occurs, however, there are still opportunities for mitigation and emissions reductions beyond current actions. Our initial efforts to address emissions from energy focus on reducing and abating methane from legacy fossil fuel infrastructure. It is critical to reduce methane, which is 85x a stronger warming agent than CO2 over 20-year period, in the near term and our first projects focus on technology that can be immediately deployed.

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Areas of Opportunity

Neglected Mitigation Strategies

Reduction of emissions from fossil fuel production and transport is critical to meeting 2030 climate goals to reduce global emissions by 45%, according to the UN Net Zero Coalition. Our work in this space has focused on increasing deployment of under-used and neglected technologies capable of mitigating and reducing methane emissions from underground mining. 

Through CC Lab efforts, we have been able to speed up and expand the deployment of these emissions’ reduction solutions in the US.

Innovation & Measurement

Accurate, high-resolution, and continuous detection measurement and detection of emissions from energy infrastructure is a critical prerequisite to mitigation. For example, the lack of methane measurements from abandoned oil and wells is an impediment to prioritizing which wells should be plugged.

Our efforts have sought to work with researchers and practitioners to better understand and quantify emissions from such sources and pair with innovative mitigation solutions.

Developing New Technologies

Technological innovation is needed to mitigate the emissions from the energy sector that are hardest to tackle. For example, a methane destruction method that can operate at concentrations below 0.3% has yet to reach commercial viability.

We are supporting early-stage R&D for destruction of low-concentration, high-volume methane emissions, as well as low-cost, nature-based solutions to tackle remote sources of methane emissions that cannot otherwise be used or captured.

Forestry & Land Use

Forests are an opportunity for long-term carbon sequestration.

The Forestry & Land Use (FOLU) sector represents both a problem—as a growing source of emissions and wildfires —and an opportunity for carbon containment and removal. Forests, grasslands, wetlands, and peatlands are all included in this category.

If intact forests, grasslands, wetlands, and peatlands are protected and sustainably managed, we can prevent emissions of over 4 billion MTCO2e each year. And with the restoration and maintenance of degraded lands, we can remove an additional 7 billion MTCO2e from the atmosphere annually.

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Areas of Opportunity

Ramping Up Natural Carbon Storage

Trees are one of the most efficient methods of sequestering carbon via photosynthesis, which can lock carbon in wood for centuries and even millennia. But forest management and thinning often leave low-value trees in slash piles that are burned or decompose and release CO2 back to the atmosphere. 

The CC Lab is running a set of experiments testing novel wood treatment, desiccation, and storage strategies to delay decomposition and prevent emissions. We are investigating if these methods could serve as temporary storage for low-value wood. This stored wood could then be used as feedstock for developing markets and technologies, such as bioenergy and carbon capture.

Scaling Sustainable Alternatives

Peatland ecosystems are an important and underappreciated store of carbon. Globally, peatlands store ~550 billion MTCO2e. However, they are commonly drained and converted for agriculture, harvested and burned for heat and electricity. Collectively, these practices release 2 billion MTCO2e annually-- equivalent to 5% of global emissions.

Despite a required phase-out by 2028 in the UK, peat remains widely used for gardening in the US and Canada. The CC Lab is exploring avenues to support a transition to peat alternatives. Potential pathways include consumer education and quantification of the carbon footprint of the peat industry.

Industrial Processes & Product Use

Many industrial processes emit potent greenhouse gases. The technology to mitigate them exists.

Industrial Processes and Product Use (IPPU) is an UNFCCC-defined, wide-ranging source of greenhouse emissions that includes the production of steel, cement, and nitric acid. IPPU covers, for example, the release of CO2 as a by-product of cement production and the use of fossil fuel. It also includes rapidly growing emissions sources such as leaks from cooling equipment. Finally, the sector encompasses industries that use greenhouse gasses in production processes. This includes hard-to-abate sectors and with lesser-known gases such as nitrous oxide.

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Areas of Opportunity

Climate Impact of HFCs

Fugitive emissions of refrigerant gases, including HFCs, are a major and overlooked driver of global climate change. These gases can be thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide on a pound-for-pound basis.

As heating, ventilation, and air conditioning requirements increase alongside rising temperatures and incomes, fugitive refrigerant emissions are projected to grow from 3% to as much as 19% of global CO2 emissions by 2050.

Phasing Down HFCs

Industry is moving away from ozone depleting substances for refrigeration and industrial use. Due to their destructive nature, the Montreal Protocol phased out the use of CFCs and HCFCs in 1987. This prompted industry to switch to using hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) -- substances that do not deplete the ozone -- but are potent greenhouse gases. 

Regulation is now pushing a second pivot away from HFCs. US policies have begun to phase down production and consumption of HFCs and to support increased reclamation and this will require a decline of HFC use by 85% by 2037.

Recovery & Destruction

The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol is an important policy tool in the HFC challenge. It allows developing countries longer to phase out their use of HFCs, while mandating developed countries including the U.S. do so on an accelerated timeline. 

As developing countries will be a large portion of growing cooling demand, addressing the growing stock of HFCs and units reaching end of life in these countries will be critical. The CC Lab is working with partners to explore innovative ways to engage the voluntary carbon markets to encourage end of life disposal and destruction of HFCs.


We need to get creative with waste management.

Waste treatment and management are a source of US emissions primarily in the form of methane and nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions. Waste activities generated emissions of 156 million MT CO2e, or 2.6 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. 

Some sources of emissions from waste, such as landfills, which account overall for about 16% of US methane emissions, have been developed as offset generating products through improved emissions abatement. Waste streams also generate potential opportunities for recycling and reuse, lowering the overall emissions impact of the sector.

Editorial visualization coming soon
Areas of Opportunity

Expanding Composting

For some agriculture installations, composting or other alternative manure strategies may be an efficient method for reducing emissions. One such method, composting, is in use typically only at relatively small farms. Compost can then be used on site, or some instances, sold locally as a landscaping product. Additional research is needed to find alternative uses for manure – such as improved methods for fertilizer production, or additional agricultural products.

Anaerobic Digestion

Anaerobic digesters are one technology capable of taking advantage of the methane generated from waste. Anaerobic digesters use bacteria to break down organic waste in the absence of oxygen and create biogas. This biogas can generate electricity, be upgraded into natural gas pipelines, or used on site to offset energy needs. Digesters have struggled to be cost-effective through unstable subsidies and incentives. New co-digestion that may handle food waste and tap into lucrative biogas incentives may make previously too costly projects, such as regional digestion, more feasible.

Wastewater Treatment

Wastewater treatment systems, especially treatment of domestic wastewater, are sources of both methane and nitrous oxide emissions. The organic material in this wastewater generates methane emissions in the absence of oxygen, and even once treated, may be a source of emissions from the remaining biosolids. Better understanding how these processes may release nitrous oxide emissions, and ensuring beneficial use of biosolids may have mutually beneficial emissions reductions impacts.  

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