How carbon sequestration fits into your city’s climate plan

When pursuing net-zero targets for cities, carbon capture is crucial. Through active CO2 storage, cities can balance out the last persistent carbon emitters in their territories. However, it is routinely being overlooked in local climate policy. As policymakers, we focus hugely on climate mitigation, reducing our emissions. But we often forget the other side of the coin in the process: how much CO2 is being stored? A vital component to complete the whole picture. Surprisingly, we see that no administration possesses the figures, reports on them, or even sets concrete targets to maintain or possibly increase carbon capture. This is very understandable, as until recently it was very difficult for cities to obtain data about CO2 storage on their territory. Our collaboration with Genvision seeks to make this problem a thing of the past.

Ides Peeters
April 23, 2024

What exactly is carbon sequestration and storage?

At its core, carbon sequestration and storage involves extracting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by any means, both technical as well as through the natural means of vegetation, soil, or the ocean. The captured CO2 is then safely stored to prevent it from being released back into the atmosphere and negating all efforts. The result is net CO2 removal from the air. The reverse of emissions.

Technical methods

There are several methods to capture CO2 from the air. Research into technical methods is currently in its infancy. There is plenty of testing and scaling up, but little is fully operational yet. What is certain is that the finished product will require heavy investment to implement, and that it will not be applicable everywhere in the world. After all, you need a suitable geological formation that serves as a repository. Moreover, the technical solutions are mainly designed as a compensation strategy for expanding industry. In an urban context, they are less relevant and applicable. However, there is an alternative way to store CO2, one that is ubiquitous and does so on a day-to-day basis: nature.

Nature-based carbon capture and storage

When trees and plants grow, they take CO2 from the air and convert it into biomass. But when they die, some of this stored CO2 is released again. With the rapid expansion of cities and towns, we have had to sacrifice a lot of nature for buildings over the years, leading to significant CO2 emissions. Fortunately, these same cities and towns can now put a positive spin on that trend. By incorporating and planting more nature in their streetscapes, policymakers can focus on CO2 storage to meet their net-zero targets. But the benefits of nature go beyond that.

Nature’s multifaceted contribution to climate plans

In the fight against climate change, nature has many applications. It has several valuable properties to help cities become more sustainable and resilient.

·      Nature captures carbon from the atmosphere, compensating emissions.

·      The cooling effect by the breathing of plants, as well as the shade provided by trees, both reduce the heat island effect in cities.

·      Dehardening associated with greening the streetscape makes cities more resilient to extreme rainfall and flooding.

·      Plants serve as natural airfilters. They ensure better air quality.

·      Less tangible benefits are also provided by nature, such as improved well-being, increased community cohesion and better mental health of citizens.

In short, nature is vital in cities' climate plans to adapt and protect themselves against the challenges of tomorrow.

The challenge in valuing nature-based solutions

If nature has so many benefits, why don't we find it practically everywhere in our cities? The problem here is that the listed benefits are difficult to quantify, and certainly not in monetary terms. For instance, how do you determine the value of a cool street on a hot day, let alone a stronger community bond? This results in decision makers not fully grasping all the benefits nature brings to their city, and consequently not prioritizing its development. This is also the problem with CO2 storage. While it is traditionally possible to measure the CO2 content of a tree, it is a labor-intensive and time-consuming process. Each tree's height and diameter must be manually measured and this data should be updated annually to assess its evolving carbon storage capacity. Not optimal, in other words.


However, this is all in the past, as thanks to the collaboration with Genvision, it is now possible to accurately and efficiently measure CO2 storage of natural elements in urban areas. This innovative approach finally enables cities to manage their CO2 storage capacity, backed up by data, and even set purposeful targets for increasing it.

Genvision provides a solution

Genvision is a young, inspirational start-up, addressing exactly the previously described data gap in terms of CO2 storage. They replace expensive and time-consuming on-field measurements with optimized estimation algorithms tailored to remote sensing data. Their technology builds on top of existing remote sensing data products such as satellite imagery, for which they facilitate adequate retrieval, preprocessing and usage in order to monitor forests, tree planting projects and urban greenery.


Their combination of high-resolution satellite data and advanced AI algorithms allows to extract valuable characteristics such as the location of each individual tree, their respective species and estimated age. All these parameters strengthen the dialogue with local partners, quantitatively as well as visually. Genvision highly values the visual representation of its obtained results in maps, tables, and figures to foster interpretability. Additionally, Genvision’s unique expertise at the intersection of carbon storage and ecology allows to deduce the respective CO2 storage for each of those identified trees. At the moment of recording, but also in the past and future through carefully estimated projections. Annual updates will then help to track the yearly evolution compared to the previously predicted scenarios and can help to steer the proposed solutions.


Through this technology, Genvision aims to quantify the climate benefits of nature, enabling decision makers to efficiently protect and restore nature. Therefore, the joint efforts of Futureproofed and Genvision will reinforce and quantitatively underpin existing partnerships through efficient carbon capture measurement solutions. Nature projects in climate plans of Futureproofed customers will be able to be backed up through reliable data provided by Genvision that is visualized in your Futureproofed dashboard (view new feature here).

Get inspired: Medellín's 'Corredores Verdes' climate success

You might believe it's easier said than done, but we'd like to ease those concerns by sharing an inspiring success story with you: Welcome to the Colombian city of Medellín. Faced with climate change in 2016, the city decided to act on it. The final result was a connected network of 30 'Corredores Verdes', or green corridors, spanning the entire city.

This ambitious initiative aimed to plant 880 000 trees and 2.5 million smaller plants all over the city, for a price tag of $16.3 million. The brand-new greenery brought numerous benefits. First, an environmental study calculated that one such green corridor would absorb about 161 tonnes of CO2 per year, leading to a total CO2  uptake 2.3 kilotonnes over its complete lifecycle. The whole “Green corridors” network could thus absorb enough CO2 annually to balance the emissions of close to 1 900 of its citizens. Besides CO2 uptake, the green network also had a huge impact on the heat island effect. An average drop in temperature of 2°C was measured in places where the green corridors were planted. Moreover, the concentration of air pollutants reduced by an average of 11% across Medellín. Apart from the ecological benefits, the investment also brought economic benefits. A total of 2,600 jobs were created when implementing the project. In addition, 107 people from underprivileged backgrounds were trained as gardeners. Their full-time responsibility is now to maintain the green corridors. Medellín's 'Corrodores Verdes' project is a textbook example of how green infrastructure can improve the well-being of citizens, while simultaneously providing protection against global warming.

So, next to the improved well-being of its citizens and the creation of a city that is overall more agreeable to live in, the green corridors brought the following concrete benefits to Medellín:

-     Carbon capture: A yearly amount of carbon captured that equals the yearly emissions of close to 1900 of its citizens

-     Heat island: An average drop of 2°C in areas where the green corridors were planted

-     Air quality: An overall reduction in air pollutants of 11% across the city

-     Local economy: 2700 jobs were created in the deployment of the green corridors, 107of which were steady jobs for people from underprivileged backgrounds

Critique and limitations tackled

Various difficulties such as data availability, model generalizability and lack of in-depth knowledge across dispersed ecological regions continue to challenge Genvision through the development of their technology.


Necessary remote sensing data might be sparsely available due to their remote geographical location, sparse satellite coverage or even political reasons. Additionally, external factors such as clouds, light and reflection might disturb the imagery quality, complicating accurate tree recognition. Also the available resolution might be suboptimal for the developed algorithms. However, Genvision aims to address these challenges through close partnerships with imagery providers, building trust in data-provision and -handling, exchanging expertise in e.g. cloud removal and resolution upscaling. Additionally, further training and improvements of the existing models will explore the potential use of lower-resolution imagery for similar monitoring tasks.


Additionally, the terrain and local climate of each individual project might influence the CO2 estimation accuracy. Models trained on data from European inventories might not work as expected on African or South-American terrains due to regional specificities. Genvision aims to mitigate this generalization difficulty through continuous finetuning of their AI models on locally available data, to reach the highest level of accuracy possible. Additionally, expanding datasets and knowledge enhances a better understanding of new contexts and ecosystems in terms of CO2 storage, which is very beneficial to calibrate the future projections as ultimately, these will inform policy makers and help to shape the cities’ climate plans.

Collaborating for urban sustainability

In conclusion, the collaboration between Futureproofed and Genvision represents an important step forward in the integration of carbon sequestration solutions into urban sustainability initiatives. Quantifiable (and verifiable) measurements will give a strong voice to cities’ future climate decisions. As cities worldwide strive to tackle the challenges of climate change, collaborative efforts and innovative technologies are essential to creating a greener and more sustainable future.

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