Climate Solutions Living Lab

Climate Solutions Living Lab

Professor Wendy Jacobs
Spring 2018 course
W 5:00pm - 8:00pm in WCC Room 3019
3 classroom credits

Students who enroll in this offering may count the credits towards the JD experiential learning requirement.

Prerequisites: By Permission. Please send a statement of interest and CV to This is a multi-disciplinary course; students will work in multi-disciplinary teams. Cross-registrants from SEAS, HBS, HKS, SPH, GSD, and MIT are encouraged to apply.

Exam: No Exam. Class participation and team work are pivotal. There will be short written exercises throughout the semester. The course will conclude with a paper and team presentation describing and advocating for the project your team ultimately chooses to develop. Grading will be based on the quality of class participation, teamwork, exercises, and the final paper and presentation.

This course has a limited number of seats to be filled by students from multiple disciplines (law, business, engineering, design, public policy, and public health). Interdisciplinary student teams will design projects for reducing the use of fossil fuels in the U.S. and reducing emissions of potent greenhouse gases (GHG) from various activities other than energy generation. Together, we will identify potential projects; analyze their feasibility, costs, and benefits from multiple perspectives (economic, technological, legal, health, policy, etc.); and select several projects for further scrutiny and development. Students in this class will learn how projects proceed from concept through screening, design, environmental and public health reviews, financing, challenges, and permitting. This course is practical, highly interactive, and hands-on. Typically, the weekly class will include a short lecture and applied learning via exercises and/or a project team meeting. Some weeks, we will host a guest expert. In addition, outside of class time, tutorials will be offered on specific topics.

Possible projects may include innovative solutions to help low-income, under-served populations improve their living conditions through the use of renewable energy and other measures that reduce reliance on fossil fuels. We will also consider projects that could help Harvard and other institutions (for-profit and non-profit) meet their greenhouse gas reduction goals. We will analyze a variety of possible projects and screen for the projects that are most likely to be replicable, scalable, reliable, and generate significant benefits. The student teams will engage in intensive analyses and development of implementation pathways for projects that survive the screening process. As one example of the type of project you might work on, students last year developed a project to reduce the use of nitrogen fertilizer on corn farms in the Midwest. This project would reduce GHG emissions, reduce contamination of nearby waters, improve public health and worker safety, and reduce costs for farmers, while also ensuring that there would be no adverse effects to the farmers in terms of reduced crop yield.

Faculty from other Harvard graduate schools, including the Kennedy School, T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, will be involved. Lectures will provide background on pertinent topics including the public health and other benefits of GHG emission reductions; electricity markets and their regulation; the laws pertaining to air pollution; the siting, permitting and financing of projects; and data collection techniques. Students will learn about key elements of project development and the practice of environmental law, including mechanisms for raising and resolving controversies, identifying the environmental and health impacts of a project, parsing and applying relevant statutes and regulations, analyzing mechanisms for mitigating project impacts and managing controversies, identifying the permits and approvals needed for a project, and identifying funding sources for project development.

In addition to lectures and team work, there will be opportunities to meet and interact with experts, including economists, financiers, technology and renewable energy developers, government representatives, and leading corporations.

Subject Areas: Environmental Law, Procedure & Practice, Regulatory Law