Partner Spotlight

Adding integrity to carbon projects with carbon insurer Kita

Learn how carbon insurer Kita uses Lens.

Photo: M Estrada
May 20, 2024
Table of contents

For most of us, it’s a safe bet to say we don’t get excited when we hear the word insurance. But what if — and hear us out — it was easy and could help combat climate change? Whoa whoa, you might say. That’s bold. Brave even? Okay let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Definitely bold, and… actually happening already.

Carbon markets have been the talk of the town as of late. Or more specifically — that things are in chaos and that it’s all greenwashing!

Okay, fair: carbon markets haven’t always had the best track record. There may be many reasons — bad actors, bad data, bad organization — but chief among them is that carbon projects of any kind are difficult to measure, verify, and, ultimately, account for. And for projects of this scale, integrity and transparency is not only key but integral. Nature-based solutions (NBS) may be upheld as clear solutions to combating climate change, but we need ways to add integrity and ultimately hold these projects accountable.

Convinced? Well well well, here we are: Kita and Lens.

Kita is a carbon insurance company — meaning they’re the ones most excited about ensuring that carbon projects are actually working and doing what they need to be doing — saving the world.

Or at least, capturing, storing, or converting carbon for us.

But they deal with insurance, and according to their website, insurance brings four key benefits to the carbon markets

  1. A balance between traditional risk management practices and innovation; 
  2. A stamp of confidence; 
  3. A detailed assessment of carbon project risk; and 
  4. Encouragement for market participants to take necessary risks.

How do they build trust among their clients and how do they go about this work? They rely on a range of tools — amongst them, Lens. Lens makes it easy to do the exact kind of work that Kita does: increase integrity, confidence, and trust in carbon projects and ultimately to carbon markets as a whole. No big deal.

We sat down with Mansi Agrawal, data scientist for Kita, and spoke to her about how exactly Lens plugs into Kita’s work. 

Let’s dive in.

Getting started

Remotely monitoring carbon projects of any kind requires access to data and the ability to source data exactly where you need it.

For those unfamiliar with the relatively nascent field of carbon insurance, part of the role of the carbon insurer is to understand the precise risk exposure of the carbon credits that one purchases, leading to more diligence, transparency, and ultimately a clear  process that informs what projects get insured. This in turn encourages folks to commit to projects because a company like Kita has done the vetting. And Kita undertakes these checks through Lens.

How does Mansi do it, especially in a small team? 

“We look at projects around the world. Using Lens helps us build trust in the projects and people we’re providing insurance for. People often ask us what we’re using to assess  and then monitor said projects. We have to make sure the tool we’re using is (a) state-of-the-art, and (b) the right fit for us. At this stage, we’re using Lens for our geospatial needs, for both qualitative and quantitative assessment of remote sensing data – I haven't come across any other platforms that do both. What we appreciate is the ability to verify anomalies in the quantitative data, in a qualitative manner within Lens. As an organization, we need to have concrete backing as to why we’re using Lens for our remote sensing requirements to ensure we’re instilling  confidence in the projects.
So far, it’s our favorite tool that we use for this purpose.”

Due diligence for any project starts with vetting historical site information from often disparate sources. For Mansi, verifying land use history and understanding the current conditions of an area are a smooth process with Lens. Whether you’re the dedicated lead like Mansi or one of her team members, being able to go to a very specific point of a (potential) project site and learn about its history, current status, and any other pertinent information, is crucial for assessing a project. In a market that’s been getting flak for inaccuracies and the inability to bring tangible results, this is a huge boon for anyone tracking carbon projects.

“We often have to go back and check historical imagery to verify project details and claims made by stakeholders, and have an up to date understanding of project statuses in even the most remote parts of the world. Lens is great for these processes of due diligence and vetting as it helps us determine the feasibility of insuring projects. And if a project is approved to be insured, Lens simplifies the subsequent process of monitoring project progress, circumventing the need for physical site visits.
Determining if the project is viable and insurable is our key use of Lens so far.”

So what does this process look like? Where does it fit in with remote monitoring for carbon?

The how: a carbon workflow

When a project is proposed or initiated, the first step is to add  this area of land to Lens. That’s easy, as users like Mansi can either upload a shapefile or find the area in question and draw the boundaries manually.

“Within the shapefile of a carbon project, there are often several polygons scattered over a larger area. While these polygons are contained within a single shapefile, they often need to be evaluated individually. Lens allows us to analyze each polygon separately on an ad hoc basis, unlike other platforms that treat them as a single entity within the shapefile. This distinction is crucial for our requirements and ensures a more accurate and meaningful analysis.”

Once the area of interest, or property as we call it, is loaded into Lens, it’s time for Mansi to start reviewing and assessing the site for the first time.

Public imagery is already loaded into Lens, but as Mansi noted in our conversation, sometimes ordering high resolution commercial data from a specified date works best.

Luckily, Lens provides a few avenues for data access with a diversity of different data and imagery sources.. The Lens Library plays host to the full suite of available public and commercial imagery that’s needed for the global scope of work that carbon projects often inherently require.

A screenshot of the Lens Library, where you can find and add datasets with a click. Watch a video on the Lens Library here.

Secondly, the ability to preview how much said available imagery will cost on the spot is priceless for someone managing lots of projects at once. Lens’ transparent pricing and instant ordering within the platform makes it easy to access high resolution commercial data with just a few clicks, no minimum order required. And if the data you need isn’t available in one of our many commercial vendor archives, the built-in tasking estimator tool makes it easy to understand how much it will cost to custom order imagery.

Read more: ordering commercial imagery in Lens →
“Owing to the fast-paced nature of the industry, we can’t afford to wait days for a cost estimate when ordering new imagery. With Lens, we receive the estimate instantly, allowing us to make prompt decisions. If it proves  too expensive for our immediate needs, I can explore alternative approaches, often by sourcing different datasets, a task made convenient by Lens's wide range of available data options.”

Once the imagery is ordered and in Lens, it’s easy to start using features like Analysis and Compare to assess baselines and, if a project is accepted, start the ongoing monitoring and reporting process.

Sharing insights quickly with partners

Regardless of whether a project ends up being vetted or not, it’s important to accurately and efficiently share what you find. With projects of magnitude come lots of stakeholders – people who want and need to know what’s happening on the ground, with proof to match.

Turns out our secondary school teachers were right, we need to show our work.

“One of our favorite features within Lens is its report-generating function; this is not commonly offered in-app. As a carbon insurance provider, we often interact with people knowledgeable in insurance but less so in carbon-related concepts. Lens' ability to visually represent our findings through imagery, charts, and other visual data is invaluable to us in bridging this gap. Plus given that we’re a small team, we don't always have the time or resources to manually compile every aspect of these reports - Lens streamlines this process within the app, allowing us to generate comprehensive reports with just a couple of clicks. Additionally, as a regulated entity, our work must be auditable, even years down the line. The report generation feature enables us to efficiently meet this requirement by producing PDFs containing all pertinent data and analyses, ensuring a comprehensive and easily-accessible record of our underwriting decisions.”
A few sample sheets from a report, including charts, imagery, and notes. And as always, reports are fully customizable. Watch a video here. *Please note: this is not an actual Kita report.

As Mansi describes, reports in Lens is what brings everything together. As you discover things and annotate the landscape with notes and pictures, maybe even charts, you can quickly and automatically compile all of that into a report on the spot. If you want to customize it, you can do that too, and you can even save it and come back to it later, so you can keep track of progress over an extended period of time, all in one place.

I know. Let’s recap.

“It all boils down to building trust with our stakeholders, and these features demonstrate that they can indeed trust us (Kita).”

Lens lets you assess carbon projects around the world, find insights about them in an easy, ongoing manner through quick data analysis, record these insights, and then share reports with stakeholders? Sounds pretty great.

To learn more about Lens, head to our resources page. Or, if you're reading this and are convinced, sign up today and get started.

Many thanks to the Kita team and Mansi Agrawal for sharing their use case with us. Learn more about Kita at kita.earth.

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