What is carbon.txt?
A proposed convention for website owners and digital service providers to demonstrate that their digital infrastructure runs on green electricity. This is achieved by reusing existing governance structures, already published data, and existing industry standards as much possible.
Why do we need this?
We need a fossil free internet by 2030. But right now there's still not much transparency around how we source power.
To address this, Green Web Foundation has been building a Green Domains database, open sources the code for tracking this and is publishing open datasets about the state of the green web. Creating this dataset has been an ongoing effort for years. It has involved associating IP address space like IP ranges or Autonomous System Numbers with specific organisations, then manually verifying written reports and certificates provided by said organisations to back up their green claims.
This has worked for the first few million domains, and first few billion checks against the database. But the internet is a much bigger, more dynamic place than it was when this endeavour was started. Our approach needs to evolve with the times.
Luckily, today there are more tools that can help. Tools like the Domain Name System (DNS). DNS provides a variety of ways to establish a link between a domain and the party that is hosting or operating it. There are also dedicated registries that make it possible to trust that electricity has been generated from clean and renewable energy sources. And, if you know where to look, it's possible to tell when efforts to decarbonise energy are credible.
Carbon.txt serves to make links between these systems easier to follow. So when there is a claim that a website is running on green energy, you can trace the provenance of supporting evidence more easily.
What are the goals?
Surface energy sources
Bring information about the energy used to power digital services and the internet as a whole into the public domain.
Decentralise green hosting data
Lays the groundwork for a future where checking if a website/service uses green energy is not locked to a single database.
To achieve these goals, we have:
- used as much existing infrastructure as possible (web standards, conventions, governance)
- applied permissive licensing around use, so it can easily be built into modern tooling for continuous delivery and existing platforms/software;
- used a format that is human readable, as well as machine readable;
What are the benefits?
For digital service providers
If you provide hosted digital services to others, carbon.txt lets you:
Receive recognition, in a human and machine readable way, that the infrastructure you manage or use to provide your service runs on green energy.
Earn trust from customers by helping creating an evidence base of action being taken by providers to help the world transition to a fossil free internet.
Pass on to customers
Allow any downstream services or websites using your services to make the same claims, with a clear chain of attribution.
Demonstrate leadership if you are moving faster in terms of a climate response than the organisations in your supply chain by linking to your own work.