The Paris Climate Accord was a momentous accomplishment, uniting all the world's nations in an effort to tackle climate change. We're proposing a technical project to unite the reporting of all the nations. We've named the effort “Chaîne” because we intend to utilize blockchains to manage and secure the reporting, and we’ve chosen the French word to highlight the Parisian connection.
We envision a solution that is bidirectional: on a global level it helps with the reporting of data and on a country level it helps with the collection of data. Thus both the UN and the 195 signatory countries stand to benefit.
The blockchain infrastructure will have 195 nodes hosted around the world. The structure can be modeled as a distributed network for information collection. Every node will have the same basic software, including an application that creates reports and enables analytics. The software will have two components: one to collect information from within the country and another component to assimilate the data and transform it into the form required by the UN. Eventually, each country’s server will be customized according to specific needs.
We've chosen water lilies as a visual metaphor for the infrastructure. Imagine a lily pad with 195 flowers. The flowers are the collection applications. Underwater, they all connect in the root network. As time goes by and the water rises they grow. If the Paris Climate Accord succeeds then over time the water level will stabilize into a healthy ecology.
Brief Technical Description
The infrastructure will consist of a private blockchain built as an Ethereum sidechain, using the same technology as the Ethereum public blockchain. There will be one node per country. Each country owns its node and will run its own data collection and collation app, which inputs data into the blockchain. The facilitator (we presume the UN) will stipulate the format and content to be delivered. So each node has two parts - the country's collection app and an adapter that condenses and converts the data.
Each country's app will be customized for the data formats that the country uses for its reporting. We expect many of the apps to be similar or the same but some will inevitably be unique customizations. As the code will be open source, a country can also use its server for other purposes besides reporting its climate data, piggybacking on the functionality that the Chaîne project provides.
For storage of incoming data, both at the national and global level, we envision using IPFS. The InterPlanetary File System is a protocol designed to create a permanent and decentralized method of storing and sharing files. It’s a content-addressable, peer-to-peer hypermedia distribution protocol where nodes in the IPFS network form a distributed file system. IPFS is an open-source project developed by Protocol Labs with help from the open-source community.
A full technical description of the platform and data storage will be elucidated in a future white paper.
Why a blockchain?
Blockchain technology has a number of features and characteristics which will enhance the ability to report climate data, including:
1. Data integrity
Due to its hashing capability, data that is entered into s blockchain is extremely difficult to alter. Once approved by consensus it is immutable. Any change to data can be tracked in the chain, reducing the possibility for fraud or malpractice.
A blockchain does not have a central point of failure and is better able to withstand malicious attacks. Disaster recovery is inherently built into a blockchain as all parties maintain a copy of the ledger.
3. Storage & Speed
A blockchain provides for near-real-time updates of data across nodes. This facilitates speedier sharing and access to data for overview entities such as the UN. By utilizing IPFS it will allow for safe and immutable file sharing and facilitate large data transfer with high efficiency.
By providing a single source of accurate and immutable data, a blockchain is a repository of transactional data which can be used to develop better analytics. A singular view of each country’s position across all data points can be made available assisting in management efforts, collation, and steering.
We're constantly learning and researching the current reporting facilities and have examined the data formats. For instance, we've looked closely at what http://climateactiontracker.org/ has done. We’d like to collaborate with these organizations in order to utilize the development that they've already achieved, particularly for the reporting features. We are collecting our research and thinking in a 'Padlet' – https://padlet.com/abhimanyu_sarvagyam/dkbw3byaxprj – which we update regularly.
We’ll use the agile methodology for developing the solution and incorporate tenets like rapid prototyping and remote collaboration (both within the team and with end-user clients). All our work will be open source and utilize open source resources as much as possible, ensuring that we always build on what has been done before rather than reinventing the wheel. By implementing a blockchain to manage the UN’s data collection, assimilation. and reporting of climate action tracking, we think all parties stand to benefit from its inherent ability to enhance trust by providing security and guaranteed immutability of all data.
The Long View
We believe that, if this project proceeds, most of the work will be political. The technical construction is probably 20% of the project. In order to get it integrated with 193 countries there will be months of diplomatic and relation building time needed. We would be happy to play a core role in that process as well.