National annual total CO<sub>2</sub> emissions from combustion of fossil fuels are likely known to within 5–10 % for most developed countries. However, uncertainties are inevitably larger (by unknown amounts) for emission estimates at regional and monthly scales, or for developing countries. Given recent international efforts to establish emission reduction targets, independent determination and verification of regional and national scale fossil fuel CO<sub>2</sub> emissions are likely to become increasingly important. Here, we take advantage of the fact that precise measurements of <sup>14</sup>C in CO<sub>2</sub> provide a largely unbiased tracer for recently added fossil fuel derived CO<sub>2</sub> in the atmosphere and present an atmospheric inversion technique to jointly assimilate observations of CO<sub>2</sub> and <sup>14</sup>CO<sub>2</sub> in order to simultaneously estimate fossil fuel emissions and biospheric exchange fluxes of CO<sub>2</sub>. Using this method in a set of Observation System Simulation Experiments (OSSEs), we show that given the coverage of <sup>14</sup>CO<sub>2</sub> measurements available in 2010 (969 over North America, 1063 globally), we can recover the US national total fossil fuel emission to better than 1 % for the year and to within 5 % for most months. Increasing the number of <sup>14</sup>CO<sub>2</sub> observations to ∼ 5,000 per year over North America, as recently recommended by the National Academy of Science (NAS) (Pacala et al., 2010), we recover monthly emissions to within 5 % for all months for the US as a whole and also for smaller, highly emissive regions over which the specified data coverage is relatively dense, such as for the New England states or the NY-NJ-PA tri-state area. This result suggests that, given continued improvement in state-of-the art transport models, a measurement program similar in scale to that recommended by the NAS can provide for independent verification of bottom-up inventories of fossil fuel CO<sub>2</sub> at the regional and national scale. In addition, we show that the dual tracer inversion framework can detect and minimize biases in estimates of the biospheric flux that would otherwise arise in a traditional CO<sub>2</sub>-only inversion when prescribing fixed but inaccurate fossil fuel fluxes.