Week 2: Hello Carbon180!


 Welcome to my desk

The majority of my first two weeks here at Carbon180 have been spent catching up on the basics of carbon removal and sequestration (yikes there are so many methods and so many papers--I feel a little like I jumped into a very deep very cold pool) and battling a cold that effectively wiped out my immune system for what felt like months (really only lasted 4 days), but I did manage to get some work done on my projects! I’m all for the democratization of climate-consciousness, so I’ve been focusing on agricultural soil (and tree) carbon sequestration in the marketplace -- with an emphasis on their role as compliance offsets. Looking back over that, I recognize I may not have written the most reader-friendly sentence. To try and clarify what I mean, let’s look at the Chicago Climate Exchange.

The Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) was an incredible (now defunct) scheme developed by the economist Richard Sandor. The main idea was to have companies take part in a voluntary carbon market -- firms would agree to take part in a cap and trade system with CFI (carbon financial instrument) contracts. In essence, firms were agreeing to only emit as much carbon as the CCX allowed them to based on how much carbon the firm typically emitted annually. Each year the system was in place, the CCX would allot 1% fewer CFIs to each firm, forcing them to cut down on emissions and move toward a carbon-neutral economy. Some firms, however, were unable to cut down their emissions; This is where offsets come into play. In addition to the firms that directly generate and emit greenhouse gases (members), the CCX also included offset providers and aggregators (participant members). Participant members ran projects that removed carbon dioxide from the air and stored the carbon. These projects were given CFIs to sell to firms looking to continue emitting more carbon than they were permitted.

Of the participant members, I am specifically looking into agricultural-project-based participants: those who took part in activities such as increasing soil carbon via improved crop and grazing land management, degraded land restoration, and improved energy efficiency. The goal of looking at these projects is to see what role they may have played in the CCX’s 2010/2011 collapse and what that experience can teach us about agricultural offsets in current and future carbon markets. The two main issues I’ve found regarding agricultural offsets concern additionality (whether a carbon farming activity was done because of the CCX, or had always been done and was now just considered worthy of compensation) and non-permanence (whether the carbon is permanently stored, or just released after the end of a close observation period). Hopefully, looking at these issues will help inform my research on the European Union’s Emission Trading System (which phased out compliance offsets a few years ago) and the state of agricultural offsets in general.

Me, Rory (Senior Policy Advisor), and Dvorit (Director of the Carbontech Labs accelerator program) watching Erin’s testimony to the House Science Committee on implementing the first-ever dedicated carbon removal program and updates to the Department of Energy’s carbon capture R&D work

Beyond the research, being a part of the Carbon180 team has been a really exciting experience! My coworkers are all super knowledgeable in a variety of fields -- just being around them makes me feel 150% smarter! My first week was actually “home week” here, so all the Carbon180 staff from around the country came to the Oakland office to regroup. Erin, the Director of Policy, flew in from D.C., and Jane, the Senior Scientist, came from Colorado. There were a lot of meetings about everyone’s projects and the state of carbon removal in the political, business, and scientific spheres, so I quickly became immersed in the organization’s work. In addition to the carbon sequestration assessments, there was a lot of operational stuff to learn: how to navigate Salesforce, what fonts and colors to use in presentations, how to book meeting rooms, who to contact when I fall ill and can’t make it in, and what bus to take when I inevitably miss my intended one. These are just some lessons of many that come to mind. As week two draws to a close, I’m looking forward to presenting what I’ve learned so far to my supervisors, and to learn more about the potential market impact of carbon sequestration in soils.

Stay tuned for more updates and historical tangents!

Always bouncing ideas around! Always bouncing ideas around at the office!