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Robert Hinkle and Peter R. Orszag

Can We Save the Climate Through Better Bookkeeping? Yes!

To achieve net-zero emissions, companies need a way to measure their progress.

Restoring the forest, offsetting emissions.

Restoring the forest, offsetting emissions.

Photographer: Michael Tewelde/AFP via Getty Images

Double-entry bookkeeping, invented in the 15th century by the mathematician Luca Bartolomeo de Pacioli, has been fundamental to economic growth ever since. Now, not just economic activity but the very future of the planet requires another revolution in bookkeeping.

The accounting standard needed today is one capable of measuring the amounts of greenhouse gases that are emitted and removed from the atmosphere, and the goal of reaching a “net zero” balance between the two. Although the Greenhouse Gas Protocol has provided an agreed-upon way to account for corporate carbon emissions, there is still no standard measure to assess where companies stand on the path to net zero.