Julia Shi

Yale’s Carbon Charge Project has attracted talented students from all over the world seeking to learn from the University’s groundbreaking environmental initiative. One of these students, Rida-e-Zahra Rizvi FES ’19, who came to Yale specifically because of the project, is now hoping to apply what she learns here to her native country of Pakistan.

Yale’s carbon tax, which began this year, aims to lower campuswide carbon emissions by levying a revenue-neutral carbon tax on participating buildings. The first of its kind at any University, the carbon charge has attracted national and international attention from other universities who want to implement similar policies. A recent commentary in Nature, for example, analyzed the economics behind Yale’s pricing scheme.

According to Casey Pickett, director of the Yale Carbon Charge Project, Rizvi’s arrival is representative of the international attention the project has garnered.

“Globally, we have received queries from climate-focused NGOs and parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change,” he said. “With [Rizvi’s] research focus, the list extends to Fulbright Scholars.” Pickett also noted the interest the project has sparked in people associated with nearly two dozen universities, including MIT, Harvard and Stanford.

Rizvi, who is pursuing a master’s degree in Environmental Management, applied to Yale through the Fulbright Scholarship Program. She said Yale was her “dream school” primarily because of the Carbon Charge Project.

Rizvi is currently working on a carbon abatement cost curve for Yale’s plan, a chart that analyzes the economic impact of various options for carbon mitigation. Although she is only four months into what Carbon Charge Director Casey Pickett described as a yearslong project, she said she is already picking up on the minutiae of environmental policy and engineering.

“[There is] a very strong and clear vision for carbon charge at Yale,” Rizvi said. “I know the technical aspects [of environmental engineering], but now I’m learning how to implement them.”

Ultimately, Rizvi’s goal is to use the knowledge she gains at Yale to shape carbon policy in Pakistan, potentially even introducing her own version of a carbon tax for the country. Nearly every major international environmental organization is assessing these taxes as a way to mitigate climate change, including the United Nations, and Rizvi hopes to bring carbon cost policies to a country that will be disproportionately affected by climate change.

“I have gotten so much from Pakistan: respect, love, culture, education,” Rizvi said. “I want to go back there and start to give back to my country.”

Rizvi hails from Lahore, which she describes as the “cultural hub” of Pakistan. She grew up in the city’s upper class, and acknowledges that she “never really suffered the way the rest of my country suffers.”

A large number of Pakistani citizens have inconsistent access to electricity and, especially in rural areas, face frequent power outages that can last up to 12 hours. Rizvi said the main problem is energy deficiency: The Pakistani government cannot supply enough energy to meet its people’s demand. There have been some improvements in recent years — Rizvi noted that the government recently implemented net metering, which allows houses with green energy sources to sell generated energy to the grid.

Ultimately, Rizvi said, she hopes to ameliorate the energy woes her country now faces. Trained as an environmental engineer from Pakistan’s National University of Sciences and Technology, Rizvi has already worked with her country’s government to develop energy management models that improve access to electricity.

“I could have become a normal engineer, have worked for coal and have gotten a better economic return, but I wanted to work on clean energy,” Rizvi said. “With greater opportunities afforded comes greater responsibility.”

Yale’s Carbon Charge Project went into effect on July 1 this year.

Conor Johnson | conor.johnson@yale.edu