Students provide recommendations for Carbon Charge Program

May 10, 2017

Through a statistics course offered at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES) last fall, students analyzed the initial Yale Carbon Charge Pilot. The course provided students with the opportunity to apply academic rigor to a current project on campus, enhancing Yale’s sustainability efforts.

The Yale Carbon Charge Program is testing the effectiveness and feasibility of carbon pricing as a tool for reducing campus greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on the Yale campus. During the initial pilot, Yale tested four different pricing strategies: information, target, redistribution, and investment, in 20 buildings from December 2015 to May 2016.

Two students at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, Luke Elder and Brenda Meany, examined the results of the initial pilot through a course instructed by Professor Jonathan Reuning-Scherer, “Introduction to Statistics in the Environmental Sciences.”

The students conducted a statistical analysis of the Yale Carbon Charge pilot to answer three primary questions related to the effect of the Program at Yale.

  • What was the relative impact of each variable on the change in emissions between baseline emissions and pilot emissions?
  • With what degree of confidence did instituting a carbon charge, no matter the design, influence the emissions of participating Yale buildings?
  • Did one carbon pricing scheme have a greater impact on change in emissions than another? In other words, which was the most successful carbon pricing scheme at reducing emissions?

The students worked closely with members of the Carbon Charge Program including the Director of the Program, Casey Pickett, “Casey provided the data and served as an invaluable resource and mentor throughout the project,” said Meany.

The course gave the students an opportunity to use real data that would inform a real policy at Yale. “The project added to our overall F&ES experience, allowed us to engage with the broader Yale community, and showed us how carbon pricing could be incorporated into our future careers. The project also indirectly led to an independent study for [me during] the spring semester working on the Carbon Charge Program under Casey Pickett’s direction,” said Elder.

Their initial results indicate that the Investment Scheme was the most successful scheme at reducing emissions during the pilot. According to Meany, this semester, the students are connecting with the building supervisors for the five buildings that participated in this scheme to discuss the investments they made.

This example of applied coursework demonstrates how Yale’s teaching and research can lead to innovative solutions, technologies, and best practices.

“We were able to provide recommendations for the Carbon Pricing Program that will be taken into consideration for future design changes for the next Carbon Charge Program implementation for around 300 buildings at Yale,” said Meany.

Read more about the Carbon Charge Program at Yale.

Yale is committed to building a more sustainable world. By doing what we do best—integrating science, the humanities, and our community—Yale creates, tests and adopts innovative solutions to the environmental and social challenges we all face.