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Independent Study Opportunity at CBEY: The future of climate tech policy

What policy changes are needed to support the technological innovations critical to a low-carbon economy? And what’s achievable in the next few years?

The Yale Center for Business and the Environment (CBEY) is looking for a team of students to conduct an independent study (1-3 credits) on policies that can enable low-carbon technologies. Each student (or pair of students) will focus on 1-2 technologies. Over the course of the semester, the students will review existing articles and reports, while also interviewing entrepreneurs, investors, and policymakers. The process will be student-driven, with advice and guidance from CBEY staff. The research will lead to a series of blog posts and white papers summarizing key insights, published in November and December.

Issue Summary 

The route to mitigation goes through innovation.

The world’s leading climate authority, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), published a landmark 2018 report highlighting the urgency of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The report outlines four potential pathways for reaching that goal. The pathways are vastly different, but one thing they have in common is a central role for new technologies, all of which fall under the growing category known as climate tech.

New technology needs to complement existing solutions, deployed immediately. But the IPCC pathways make clear that solving climate change depends, to some extent, on technological innovation.

So, what does it take to turn a societal need into a functional reality? Scientific breakthroughs are only part of the challenge. After that, there’s a long road before solutions can be implemented at scale.  For many climate technologies, traversing this road is near impossible without government support. The Silicon Valley attitude of “move fast and break things” doesn’t apply well to complex and highly regulated industries like energy, manufacturing, and construction.

The goal of this independent study will be to better understand the policy environment that’s necessary to support climate tech at multiple levels of government. Given that it’s an election year in the US, a key focus will be U.S. state and federal policy, but there will be opportunities to explore other nations’ policies as well. The students will engage with experts across the innovation ecosystem to understand what policies are needed and how achievable they are in the near term, particularly in light of the 2020 US elections.

Individually or in pairs, the students on the team will focus on 1-2 of the following areas of climate tech:

  • Carbon removal (including direct air capture)
  • Batteries and storage
  • Advanced nuclear
  • Clean hydrogen
  • Renewable thermal
  • Low-carbon materials (including steel and concrete)
  • New energy technology for buildings (including HVAC)
  • Electric grid modernization
  • Transportation and mobility
  • Food and agriculture
  • Advanced manufacturing techniques

NOTE: Some of the language in this summary is drawn from this GreenBiz article, written by Ben Soltoff, CBEY Environmental Innovation Manager. 


For each technology, write a blog post and/or white paper outlining the key elements of a supportive policy environment for developing and deploying that technology. This document should explain the relevant concepts and actors, provide specific policy examples, and (after November 3) reflect on future possibilities in light of the 2020 US elections.

Stages of Work:

Pick 1-2 technology areas of interest

  • Conduct a literature review of existing policy analysis for that technology
  • Interview experts and practitioners with insight into the technology, including faculty members, entrepreneurs, investors, and policymakers.
  • Collect examples of relevant policies at multiple levels of government, as well as potential policies that have been proposed or discussed
  • Critically examine policies through a lens of equity, inclusion, and environmental justice
  • Conduct a structured analysis to determine which policies are most important to the future of the technology and why
  • After November 3, follow up with experts and update findings in light of the 2020 US elections
Staff & Advisors:
  • Ben Soltoff and Stuart DeCew, CBEY Leads
  • External experts and practitioners
  • Additional faculty at SOM and/or YSE

To apply for this independent study, please send your resume and a statement of interest no longer than one page to Ben Soltoff ( by September 4. In the statement, please list the three technologies that you are most interested in researching (use the list in the Issue Summary as a starting point, but feel free to include others).

Photo courtesy of GreenBiz