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Executive Summary


Climate change, the net warming of the Earth due to the build-up of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere, is unequivocal and largely human-caused (IPCC, 2007). While this global problem requires global thinking, there is not time to wait for an international treaty to be ratified and implemented. This dilemma requires a bottom-up approach to climate change mitigation. For various reasons (regulation, political and community pressure, environmental stewardship, economics, energy security, etc), individual communities will be increasingly responsible for reducing their GHG emissions. The questions communities will ask are: What must we do? How do we do it? How much will it cost? While there have been sporadic and organized attempts to answer these questions, on the city- to regional-scale, there are currently few, if any, successful and widely applicable tools.
 
AECOM is a large international corporation with a common purpose — to enhance and sustain the world’s built, natural, and social environments (“AECOM: About Us,” 2009). AECOM’s Environment branch offers critical in-depth knowledge of local and regional requirements in fields such as air quality, impact assessment and permitting, project management, water and natural resources, and specialty and emerging technologies (“AECOM: Environment,” 2009). They see the future of development, in California and beyond, as necessarily considering GHG emissions. AECOM has developed a few basic tools to determine baseline emissions data and model reduction scenarios on a limited scope and scale. The major constraints they have identified are:

  • Emissions sources may be numerous and not well understood by those who are subject to GHG regulations or wish to participate in carbon trading markets.
  • Options for GHG reduction involve many different technologies which have varying technical requirements, costs, and political constraints that may not be well understood by affected entities
  • The emerging national and state focus on climate change mitigation provides powerful incentives and opportunities for communities to make significant steps towards a more sustainable energy future, but these are numerous and varied.

This Bren Masters group project will contribute steps towards a comprehensive GHG management approach that allows communities to meet the challenges and opportunities in a newly carbon-conscious world.

We will take three steps to address the above issues and develop a “toolkit” that can be used for community GHG emissions reduction:

  • GHG Baseline Assessment: We will evaluate the baseline GHG footprint of San Buenaventura, California (Ventura) - a community that is a member of the California Climate Action Registry (CCAR), and has completed at least one calendar year GHG inventory that has been certified as consistent with CCAR’s General Reporting Protocol (GRP) Version 3.0.
  • Reduction Strategy Development: Using the Ventura’s baseline GHG footprint and emissions profile as a starting point, we will conduct a comprehensive literature review and evaluation of the most promising GHG reduction strategies for the particular community. This menu of strategies will include energy conservation, efficiency, and local/available renewable resources.
  • Financial and Political Feasibility Analysis: After identifying the most promising reduction strategies for the community, project team members will conduct an initial feasibility assessment of implementing those reduction strategies. As certain technologies can be more costly, while others might be more politically controversial, the analysis should center on “scenario playing.” In this way, we can develop a strategic combination of technologies that optimizes the balance of the financial and political considerations. These scenarios will be developed using a two-phase, Excel-based model that we design.

For Phase I of the model, we will use economics, through cost-benefit analysis and return on investment calculations, to determine the lowest cost reduction strategy. Phase II of the model will focus on a determined metric for political feasibility. Political feasibility will be the most difficult and abstract aspect to quantify, but we plan to do just that. Using a variety of data, including elected officials’ voting record, citizen involvement in environmental events, number of environmental NGOs, number of industry interest groups, environmental legislation history and voting trends, and possibly a survey, we will quantify political feasibility on a graduated scale. After developing a menu of reduction strategies and scenarios, taking geographic and economic constraints into account, we will input the political feasibility metric for the model.

Ultimately, the Bren Group will provide to the client, AECOM, the following products:

  • A “toolkit” that includes:
    • Detailed methods and procedures for calculating the baseline, evaluating reduction strategies, utilizing the two-phase model, and delivering recommendations. 
    • A menu of all GHG reduction strategies investigated, which will enhance AECOM’s ability to help communities develop meaningful GHG reduction plans
    • A potentially Excel-based modeling tool that is developed to assess the viability of multiple GHG reduction scenarios
  • A Final Report that will include, in addition to the above items and the Ventura case study, below, detailed methods and approximate hours necessary to complete each step of the project.

In addition to AECOM, the following products will also be presented to the Ventura Community Development Planning Division and the larger Tri-County and Bren Community:

  • A strategic combination of possible GHG reduction strategies specifically for Ventura
  • A report and presentation that explains the methodology and assumptions, as well as results and recommendations for the Ventura case study.

It is our hope that the toolkit will be robust and applicable to nearly any community. We will be working in tandem with a Chinese PhD student who is undertaking a similar project for the Wuxi community. Our Final Report will include a discussion of the similarities and differences of the two projects, regions, and results. Additionally, we hope that our results and recommendations for the Ventura case study are helpful to, and used by, the Ventura Planning Department.