April 9, 2010

Reducing Transportation Emissions in the Developing World:


Adam Millard-Ball, Ph.D. Candidate, Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources, Stanford University


The initial promise of carbon offset programs as a new funding incentive for emission-reduction projects in the developing world has failed to materialize in the transportation sector. Transportation accounts for less than 0.5% of projects under the largest offset program to date, the UN-administered Clean Development Mechanism. Based on archival analysis and interviews with UN decision makers and project developers, I show how the complexities of quantifying emission reductions from transportation provides a partial explanation for this under representation. However, many of these complexities, particularly second-order effects through market responses, have been glossed over in other sectors such as renewable energy. Thus, the case of transportation sheds lights on fundamental problems with quantifying carbon offsets. I also present simulation results showing how scaling up to sector-wide offset programs may scale up the uncertainties, and lead to the generation of large volumes of spurious (non-additional) emission reductions. Grant programs may lack the conceptual elegance of carbon trading, but may be a more robust way to bring about transportation emission reductions in the developing world.

Biographical Sketch

Adam Millard-Ball is a Ph.D. candidate in Stanford University’s Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources. Bridging urban planning and environmental economics, his research currently focuses on the impacts of carbon trading on transportation, and on the effectiveness of local climate action plans.  Before coming to Stanford, Adam was Principal at transportation planning firm NelsonNygaard Consulting Associates. He led transit-oriented development, parking policy and Smart Growth projects on both East and West coasts, and served as Principal Investigator for a major Transportation Research Board study on car-sharing. A former journalist, Adam is a frequent contributor to Planning magazine. For more details, visit www.stanford.edu/~adammb/.