Garrett Guard

Aug 8, 2023

Photo of smokestack by Anne Nygård on Unsplash

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Garrett Guard is the Carbon Removal Methodology Specialist at C-Capsule where he works with GGR suppliers to bring carbon financing to those using both established and emergent methodologies. Garrett has a degree in International Service from American University. He has previously worked as a research associate at BeZero Carbon in their carbon removals division. Prior to BeZero, Garrett did research at the Institute for Carbon Removal Law and Policy where he helped to develop the integrated assessment model known as GCAM-CDR. Garrett will be moving to an apple orchard in Sheffield in September where he will continue to work with C-Capsule while enjoying the beauty of the Peak District.

How did you first come across Greenhouse Gas Removal (GGR)?

It’s funny, in the States, the acronym GGR is practically unheard of. I first heard of CDR in an intro to climate science course at American University during my undergrad. We did interviews with a variety of people across the climate space and I spoke with Dr. Wil Burns who explained that there were people out there making “fake trees.” This was 2017, and our understanding of GGR at the time was not as developed as it is now. 

I eventually took a class under Simon Nicholson, who is one of the co-founders of the Institute for Carbon Removal Law and Policy (ICRLP) along with Dr. Burns. At this point ethical thought around GGR was still being lumped in with some more wacky technologies like solar radiation management. Those tricky ethical conversations around sovereignty, moral hazard, and general environmental decision making are what really got me interested. Again, up until this point everyone had been using the terms CDR or NETs. It wasn’t until 2021, when I started working for BeZero Carbon, that I heard the term GGR for the first time. 

Who inspired you when you were looking to get into the industry?

I owe much of my success to Dr. David Morrow who was the advisor on my undergraduate thesis and the research director at ICRLP. He has been a mentor to me for a long time, and I’ll always be thankful for his guidance and friendship.

As far as career trajectory, I don’t know if there is anyone who inspires me directly. There are a lot of amazing young people in the GGR space, and getting to know people through the Future Leadership Network along with those I have met in my own work has been very inspiring. I’ll name drop Travis Caddy and Victoria Harvey here. I work very closely with Travis now, and his passion for this work is contagious. I worked with Victoria at BeZero Carbon, and I think there are probably a lot of people out there who know Victoria and are inspired by her. I was constantly learning from her during my time at BeZero and continue to keep my eye out for her name on research pieces they publish.

If there’s anyone whose job or life I really want, it is probably Dr. Holly Jean Buck. Her work concerns environmental justice in carbon removal and other geoengineering spaces, often from an anthropological perspective. Her book, ‘Ending Fossil Fuels, Why Net Zero is Not Enough’ is a fantastic read and I would highly recommend it. I saw her speak at Columbia recently, and she had been conducting interviews with people living in the Southern US who were both employed by and exposed to the oil industry. She asks hard hitting questions about how we go about “just transition,” and is really concerned with stakeholder engagement which is so important. 

What aspect within your role now is motivating you?

Probably the work I do with suppliers. At C-Capsule I work as the methodology specialist and coordinate with GGR providers world wide. One of our most exciting projects is a smaller scale biochar setup at the Nakivale refugee camp in Uganda. Being part of the effort to secure carbon financing for people who really care about the work is incredibly rewarding. 

Where do you see the biggest gaps and need for further resources?

Environmental justice and social science. The industry is failing to engage with people who belong to these communities and it is a tragedy. I don’t think there is blame to be had here, but there are some irreconcilable facts that make bridging the gap between the environmental justice community and the GGR industry very difficult. For starters, GGR as a concept is diffuse and there are so many technologies under the umbrella of GGR that it is hard to communicate. Then there’s the connection GGR has to oil and gas. I think that turns a lot of environmental justice experts off from more tech based solutions, but if the environmental justice community is not involved in the conversation, then the oil and gas industry is going to develop GGR on their own without the social science expertise that is necessary. I think if government actors were a little more bullish on GGR we could be engaging wider sections of society in a way that centers equitable deployment of these nascent technologies. 

What advice would you give someone looking to get into GGR? 

Don’t get swayed by the flash of LinkedIn, keep reading academia. It is easy to see a thousand shiny solutions and new companies securing VC funding, and think to yourself that everything is working perfectly. Sure, it could be, but understanding the science that underpins this world is important and it will help you wade through a sea of people pitching their solution to you. 

Secondly, I always return to a pair of questions posed by Oliver Morton whenever I question my place in this industry. I think these are the two most important questions that a person can ask themselves to understand how they, and others, feel about climate action. Those questions are:

  • Do you believe the risks of climate change merit serious action aimed at lessening them?
  • Do you think that reducing an industrial economy’s carbon dioxide emissions to near zero is very hard?

If you answered yes to both of those, then you have a place in GGR. 

Can you describe your 2050 vision for GGR? 

Ideally we have stabilized warming and are working towards righting historical wrongs, i.e. drawing down emissions below net zero. I would love to see global adoption of compliance markets. I would love to see polluters paying for GGR. I would love to see the victims of climate change being paid for the wrongs of the world’s top polluters. Nature based carbon offset schemes are fraught with problems, but fundamentally paying stewards of carbon sinks for what they are already doing is a good idea, and I would love to see widespread payment from governments to those, primarily indigenous, people who are maintaining carbon-rich ecosystems.

2050 is not far away, nor is it easy to predict. What I would really like to see is a 2050 where we have completely decarbonized. No more fossil fuels. In 2050 the conversation around GGRs should not be about their ability to offset emissions from hard-to-abate sectors, but instead their potential to reverse climate change. We can’t get to that step in the conversation without decarbonizing first. GGR should always play second fiddle to decarbonizing, and, as much as this is an important industry, we should not stop stressing the importance of emissions reductions.