Finding and designing practical, feasible, scalable projects to help organizations achieve climate goals

Applications are currently being accepted for the Spring 2019 Climate Solutions Living Lab. To apply, please send a statement of interest and CV to Professor Wendy Jacobs at wjacobs@law.harvard.edu no later than October 15, 2018. Questions may be directed to Professor Jacobs at wjacobs@law.harvard.eduor Debra Stump at dstump@law.harvard.edu.

A new three-year interactive, multi-disciplinary Climate Solutions Living Lab course and research project led by Clinical Professor and Director of Harvard Law School’s Emmett Environmental Law and Policy Clinic, Wendy Jacobs, focuses on studying and designing practical solutions for reducing greenhouse gas emissions at Harvard, in neighboring communities, elsewhere in United States, and abroad.

The course is designed to bring together students from across the University to work on inter-disciplinary teams applying their legal, business, public policy, public health, engineering, and design training. The approaches developed will be scalable for consideration and potential adoption by other similarly-situated institutions and enterprises that want to reduce their emissions and improve public health in and around their buildings

This highly interactive course will include lectures from faculty experts representing most of Harvard’s professional Schools, including the T.H. Chan School of Public Health, John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard Business School, and Harvard Kennedy School. Ideas developed by the student teams in the course will be vetted with policy makers, community leaders, and business leaders during the semester. Some of the project ideas may subsequently be implemented by students in the Emmett Environmental Law & Policy Clinic, which is also open to cross-registrants from across the University.

Lectures will provide legal, economic, scientific, technological, and policy background on topics including greenhouse gases and air pollution, atmospheric chemistry, health impacts and other co-benefits of greenhouse gas emission reduction, the laws pertaining to air pollution, electricity markets and their regulation, the siting, permitting and financing of projects, and, data collection techniques.

During the course, one task students will work on is to assess, analyze, and develop tools for choosing off-site emissions reduction projects as a means to achieving long-term climate neutrality commitments made by businesses and organizations.

The course was a key recommendation of a faculty advisory group convened to explore ways to meet Harvard’s 2006–2016 greenhouse gas reduction goal. Research findings will inform the University’s approach to coupling off-campus emissions reduction opportunities with on-campus efforts in order to meet its ambitious, long-term climate commitment.

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Climate Solutions Living Lab Course Project examples:

Creating a replicable community cooperative to refurbish and operate a defunct hydroelectric generation plant in Utuado, Puerto Rico 

Faculty advisor:  Wendy B. Jacobs, Esq., Emmett Clinical Professor of Environmental Law and Director of the Emmett Environmental Law & Policy Clinic, Harvard Law School

Staff advisors:  Heather Henriksen, Managing Director, and Jaclyn Olsen, Associate Director, OFS; Debra Stump, Fellow, Climate Solutions Living Lab

Team

  • Alyssa Curran, Harvard Graduate School of Design
  • Ethan Hughes, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
  • Leticia Rojas, Harvard Kennedy School
  • Bridger Ruyle, Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
  • Max Tenney, Harvard Law School
  • Isabella Wechsler, Harvard Kennedy School / Harvard Business School

This team’s project includes a rural electric cooperative to refurbish and operate a defunct hydroelectric generation plant in Utuado, Puerto Rico, a remote, mountainous town that was among the hardest hit by Hurricane Maria.  Seven months after the storm, approximately 30% of households in Utuado were still without electricity and safe running water.  This project includes a pumped solar storage system, to increase the annual production of the hydro system, and buried transmission lines, to increase the community’s resilience in future storms.  Legislative changes would be necessary to bring this project to fruition; if those changes are achieved, the project has great potential for significant greenhouse gas emission reductions at a competitive price, combined with significant public health and economic development benefits.  This project would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 115,000 tons of CO2(e) annually in Puerto Rico, where currently 98% of electricity is generated by fossil fuels.

Anaerobic digesters: Technological innovation for reduced agricultural greenhouse gas emissions 

Faculty advisor:  Wendy B. Jacobs, Esq., Emmett Clinical Professor of Environmental Law and Director of the Emmett Environmental Law & Policy Clinic, Harvard Law School

Staff advisors:  Heather Henriksen, Managing Director, and Jaclyn Olsen, Associate Director, OFS; Debra Stump, Fellow, Climate Solutions Living Lab

Team:

  • Charles Corbett, Harvard Law School
  • Jenny Fan, Harvard Graduate School of Design / Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
  • Elizabeth Minchew
  • Daniel Peckham, Harvard Kennedy School of Government
  • Rebecca Stern, Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
  • Jayson Toweh, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

This team’s project utilizes an anaerobic digester on a large dairy farm in a low-income area of Idaho to reduce emissions by 55,000 metric tons of CO2(e) annually, at the competitive cost of $15/ton, while also producing significant public health benefits for the community.  While anaerobic digesters are a proven technology for reducing GHG emissions, significant barriers, including upfront financing, responsibility for ongoing management and maintenance, and competition with other dairy farm priorities, have prevented the widespread adoption of the technology.  EPA estimates that digesters are technically feasible on over 8000 large dairy and hog farms; yet, only 253 digesters are currently in operation in the U.S.  This project would spur more rapid adoption of digesters by engaging a high-profile project partner.  This project partner would assist with project finance and management to reduce barriers, promote digester technology, and show thought leadership, while also claiming the carbon offsets from the project.  

Alley cropping in Missouri:  How a university can meet its climate goals while transforming US agricultural practices and improving livelihoods 

Faculty advisor:  Wendy B. Jacobs, Esq., Emmett Clinical Professor of Environmental Law and Director of the Emmett Environmental Law & Policy Clinic, Harvard Law School

Staff advisors:  Heather Henriksen, Managing Director, and Jaclyn Olsen, Associate Director, OFS; Debra Stump, Fellow, Climate Solutions Living Lab

Team:

  • Johan Arango-Quiroga, Harvard Extension School
  • David Chan, Harvard Business School
  • Aubrey Germ, Harvard Graduate School of Design
  • Heather Romero, Harvard Law School
  • Angela Shields, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
  • Charlotte Wagner, Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

This team devised an agroforestry pilot project to generate 100,000 tons of CO2(e) reductions over the life of the project; improve air, water, and soil quality; and increase and diversify participating farmers’ income.  The project would achieve these emission reductions by loaning farmers the funds necessary to engage in alley cropping – planting rows of trees at wide spacing, with a companion crop grown in the alleyways between the rows – on a portion of their farmland.  Specifically, 100,000 tons of CO2(e) offsets can be generated by transforming 1,500 acres of conventional Missouri farmland to alley cropping using rows of Chinese chestnut trees with hay grown in the alleyways.  In this project, the sponsoring entity loans money to the farmer to implement the project, which has a negative cash flow for the first seven years.  Once cash flow to the farmer turns positive – that is, when the chestnut trees mature and begin producing cash crops – the farmer repays the loan in cash, plus interest in the form of carbon offsets.  The farmer also will see a net profit of $8,500 per acre from diversifying conventional farmland to alley cropping. 

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and creating social benefits in Alaska Native villages

Faculty advisor:  Wendy B. Jacobs, Esq., Emmett Clinical Professor of Environmental Law and Director of the Emmett Environmental Law & Policy Clinic, Harvard Law School

Staff advisors:  Heather Henriksen, Managing Director, and Jaclyn Olsen, Associate Director, OFS; Debra Stump, Fellow, Climate Solutions Living Lab

Team:

  • Michelle Chang, Harvard Kennedy School
  • Misbath Daouda, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
  • Ava Liu, Harvard Law School
  • Hannah Nesser, Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
  • Nerali Patel, Havard Graduate School of Design

This team designed a pilot home weatherization project, coupled with a hydroponics project, for an Alaska Native village with high energy costs and high poverty rates.  The project would weatherize homes to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in the village, while also improving public health and decreasing energy bills.  At the same time, the project would install a hydroponics facility at the local school to increase the availability and decrease the cost of fresh produce, leading to further public health improvements while also creating educational and employment benefits for the village.  This pilot project could be extended to other Alaska Native villages.  Although the project would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the cost-per-ton of emission reductions would be high compared to market costs for carbon offsets.  However, the social benefits of their project make it attractive to a project sponsor interested in a greenhouse gas reduction project that will also provide substantial public health and social benefits to an underserved population. 

Building a healthy, energy efficient future in Rhode Island public schools 

Faculty advisor:  Wendy B. Jacobs, Esq., Emmett Clinical Professor of Environmental Law and Director of the Emmett Environmental Law & Policy Clinic, Harvard Law School

Staff advisors:  Heather Henriksen, Managing Director, and Jaclyn Olsen, Associate Director, OFS; Debra Stump, Fellow, Climate Solutions Living Lab

Team

  • Cade Carmichael, Harvard Law School
  • Erika Eitland, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
  • Karishma Patel, Harvard Kennedy School
  • Caroline Quazzo, Harvard Business School
  • Sanjay Seth, Harvard Kennedy School / Harvard Graduate School of Design

Rhode Island public schools provide a space to learn and work for more than 160,000 students, staff, and teachers.  A recent four-year construction moratorium resulted in deteriorating school building infrastructure.  The student team developed two public-private partnerships to address deteriorating infrastructure while promoting energy efficiency and occupant health.  The Bright Future Campaign would upgrade school lighting and fixtures; the Safe Scholars Securing Success partnership would improve the building envelope in schools through minor upgrades with big energy savings, such as window caulking, improving roof membranes, and installing door sweeps.  The team identified novel financing options for Rhode Island to consider, including community bonds, a green revolving fund, and pay-for-success.  The partnerships developed by the team are realistic, achievable options for Rhode Island’s public schools.

Wind-diesel microgrid for Shishmaref, an Alaska Native community forced to relocate due to climate change-driven sea level rise and erosion 

Faculty advisor:  Wendy B. Jacobs, Esq., Emmett Clinical Professor of Environmental Law and Director of the Emmett Environmental Law & Policy Clinic, Harvard Law School

Staff advisors:  Heather Henriksen, Managing Director, and Jaclyn Olsen, Associate Director, OFS; Debra Stump, Fellow, Climate Solutions Living Lab

Team

  • Mo Earley, Harvard Kennedy School
  • Sidra Fatima, Harvard Graduate School of Design
  • Paavani Garg, Harvard Law School
  • Brian Ho, Harvard Graduate School of Design / Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
  • Willow Latham, Graduate School of Design / Harvard Kennedy School
  • Darya Minovi, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

This team designed a wind-diesel microgrid for the area to which the village of Shishmaref, Alaska hopes to relocate.  Shismaref is a remote Alaska Native community, located on a barrier island north of the Bering Strait, that has been profoundly affected by climate change.  Because continued occupation of the village is too risky due to climate-caused problems of sea level rise, increased storm surges, permafrost thaw, reduced sea ice, and coastal erosion, the village has voted to relocate to the mainland.  The team working on Shishmaref’s slow-moving climate crisis visited Alaska to meet with community leaders and energy experts regarding Shishmaref’s plight.  To address one aspect of the enormous challenge facing Shismaref, the team developed a plan for a wind-diesel microgrid for the relocation site.  The microgrid will reduce energy costs for the relocated community, improve energy independence, and improve public health for residents.  Financing such a system will be a challenge.  However, the team identified a variety of resources that could, coupled with policy changes at the state level, enable the project to proceed.

Reducing potent greenhouse gases: An agricultural nitrogen fertilizer reduction project 

Faculty advisor:  Wendy B. Jacobs, Esq., Emmett Clinical Professor of Environmental Law and Director of the Emmett Environmental Law & Policy Clinic, Harvard Law School

Staff advisors:  Heather Henriksen, Managing Director, and Jaclyn Olsen, Associate Director, OFS; Debra Stump, Fellow, Climate Solutions Living Lab

Team

  • Jessica Huang, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
  • Taylor Jones, Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
  • Chaz Kelsh, Harvard Law School / Harvard Kennedy School

Nitrogen fertilizer use is the largest source of emissions of nitrous oxide, a powerful greenhouse gas, to the atmosphere.  Nitrogen fertilizer also creates a significant portion of the nation’s water pollution, causing problems like the Gulf of Mexico’s dead zone.  A large portion of emissions from nitrogen fertilizer could be avoided by the adoption of efficient fertilizer application strategies.  While carbon credit registries recognize these strategies and have approved protocols to issue carbon credits for the use of these strategies, very few projects have been developed under these protocols.  High transaction costs for enrolling farmer-participants and verifying the reductions in fertilizer use are a major barrier to the use of the protocols.  This team’s project proposes to pay farmers directly to use less nitrogen fertilizer; the funder (i.e., project sponsor) would use the resulting emission reductions to offset its own emissions.  This project would generate real, additional offsets at a scale that is cost-effective.  A university would be an ideal project sponsor, as this project would provide numerous educational opportunities for students. 

A forest sequestration project, combined with home weatherization, in the Kodiak Island region of Alaska 

Faculty advisor:  Wendy B. Jacobs, Esq., Emmett Clinical Professor of Environmental Law and Director of the Emmett Environmental Law & Policy Clinic, Harvard Law School

Staff advisors:  Heather Henriksen, Managing Director, and Jaclyn Olsen, Associate Director, OFS; Debra Stump, Fellow, Climate Solutions Living Lab

Team

  • Vik Bakshi, Harvard Business School
  • Renzo Guinto, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
  • Caroline Lauer, Harvard Graduate School of Design
  • Michael Haggerty, Harvard Graduate School of Design
  • Mike Maruca, Harvard Law School
  • Yuan Zhang, Harvard Kennedy School

This team created a carbon offset project in Alaska that could achieve 50,000 metric tons of credible and legitimate CO2(e) emission reduction offsets annually.  The project combines two elements:  (1) forest sequestration through Improved Forest Management in the Kodiak Island region of Alaska, and (2) a Social Impact Fund for weatherization in local Alaska Native villages.  The Improved Forest Management project would produce all of the carbon offset credits, while the Social Impact Fund would generate co-benefits, in particular, public health benefits for local communities.  The project would achieve these benefits at a competitive cost of around $10/ton of CO2(e).

Creating carbon offsets via a portfolio of renewable energy purchases and investments 

Faculty advisor:  Wendy B. Jacobs, Esq., Emmett Clinical Professor of Environmental Law and Director of the Emmett Environmental Law & Policy Clinic, Harvard Law School

Staff advisors:  Heather Henriksen, Managing Director, and Jaclyn Olsen, Associate Director, OFS; Debra Stump, Fellow, Climate Solutions Living Lab

Team

  • Conleigh Byers
  • Justin Galle, Harvard Kennedy School
  • Jiahua Guo, Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
  • Richard Schwartz, Harvard Law School
  • Augusta Williams, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

High upfront capital costs remain a key limiting factor to the growth of renewable energy.  This innovative project, modeled after tax equity agreements commonly used to finance renewable projects, creates a structure for bringing a university into the financing for a renewables project as a “renewable energy certificate (REC) equity investor.”  A REC equity investor would be a university (or corporation) willing to forgo cash distributions from the project in exchange for receiving a portion of the RECs generated by the project.  This novel equity financing mechanism would help achieve the installation of non-business-as-usual renewables projects.  This project recommends specific analyses of potential renewable energy projects to maximize the public health benefits of chosen projects.