Victoria Harvey

Feb 1, 2024

Photo of smokestack by Anne Nygård on Unsplash

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Victoria Harvey is a Carbon Removal Ratings Coordinator at BeZero Carbon, a global ratings agency for the voluntary carbon market. Previously Victoria was a Visiting Researcher at Imperial College London in the Centre for Environmental Policy, focused on carbon removal policy developments, and worked at the Carbon Removal Centre researching corporate engagement in carbon removal. 

How did you first come across GGR?

When I was 16 years old learning about climate change mitigation in Geography, my teacher briefly discussed ‘geoengineering’. For less than ten minutes we discussed novel, future technologies that could be used in the climate crisis, like solar radiation management or GGR [greenhouse gas removal]. I asked one question, maybe two, and my teacher saw my interest. Later that month she shared an article clipping with me about direct air capture. At the time I didn’t think much of it, but over a decade later I can safely say it was pivotal. 

A few years later at university (where I studied Mechanical Engineering and Environmental Policy) I had to complete a writing module to graduate. I chose a writing course that focused on the intersection between society and technology. Students could pick any topic in this remit and I stumbled back to GGR and the benefit of using technology symbiotically with nature. 

Years passed before I returned to GGR. It started small with one discussion, and years later one essay. In neither instance did I know this would be where I end up, but I am grateful to have been led here. 

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

My first serious moves into the industry began during my Masters at Imperial. During my thesis research, I investigated the role of collaborative policy measures in scaling the GGR sector, focusing on the UK and US. I conducted a number of interviews and workshops with GGR experts in both regions. I was just starting out, asking a lot of questions, being schooled on the difference between CCS and GGR, and really just in pursuit of better understanding. 

In every conversation, everyone was so patient, so kind, and always emphatic that GGR is no excuse for avoiding deep reductions. It felt like they genuinely wanted to nurture my understanding and growth. In this research I met many inspirational people. Notable mention to the strong empowering women at Carbon180 at the time. 

Truthfully, there isn’t one name who inspired me. Rather it was the motivation in the industry at the time that I was starting out that drew me in, and made me feel like I could both learn and deliver to the industry at the same time. GGR is a sector where we will always be learning, and that reality inspired me from the very beginning. 

What aspect within your role now is motivating you?

I work at BeZero Carbon as a Carbon Ratings Coordinator for the GGR sector. At BeZero we rate the quality of carbon projects across the entirety of the VCM [voluntary carbon market] and their likelihood of achieving the removal or avoidance they claim to do. For projects entering this market we assess their quality in additionality, carbon accounting and non-permanence. Looking at GGR quality in the same framework as REDD or Energy projects, for example.

A prerequisite of our rating is a minimum amount of transparency and disclosure by the projects. I love this. Transparency is necessary for trust. Trust is necessary to build support. Support is needed for growth in this sector. We have to scale GGR in all future climate scenarios, even the ones where we do everything right. Being able to embed transparency and trust as a foundational pillar in this market and for GGR projects is highly motivating.

Where do you see the biggest gaps and needs for further resourcing?

In my view, the biggest gap to date is successful demonstrations across the entire portfolio of GGR methods. Inside our GGR circles, we know we have the science and we know we have scientists. We know in principle, testing or modeling it works, and we know we have some boots on the ground making it happen. Now what we need is support beyond the GGR circles to move the sector from early stage to a functioning industry.

This means we need policy, we need funding and we need people. Easier said than done, I know. But, we need successful demonstrations to drive in more support. To get to successful demos, we need targeted strategies that go beyond R&D funds, and are directed to real deployments. GGR is expensive and it is not going to get cheaper any time soon. Unfortunately we need it regardless of the price tag. If we can show it works in the field through successful demos, support will naturally follow.

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

I have two pieces of advice. First, follow your passions! This industry has so many options, there is not one single path. We need policy, project development, corporate sector support, scientific research, civil society engagement, innovators, communicators … We all have different skills to share. So if you are interested in GGR and passionate about one niche thing, why not follow it? The sector is growing – grow yourself with it and you will sustainably thrive.

Second, it’s better to do something now than wait to know how to do it 100%. A piece of advice I was given by a friend once was how can you expect yourself to know exactly what to do if you haven’t done it before? With GGR that resonates every day. It’s new, it’s unwritten. Help to write it. It’s better to do something, try, and fix your mistakes if you made them. That’s how we evolve. Moving forward requires movement.

Can you describe your 2050 vision for GGR? 

In 26 years time (a friendly reminder that 2050 is as far away as 1998) I envision a supported, sustainable and stably growing GGR sector. We made deep cuts in our emissions globally, probably not as soon as we should have, but we did it. We understood that GGR is for near impossible-to-abate sectors (not just the hard ones). Every country is committed to an equitable removals target and making strides towards it. GGR is decentralised and small-scale within cities, then large-scale GGR projects are collocated with renewable energy projects. GGR won’t have achieved its critical mass, but it is no longer seen as ‘other’ or ‘future’. It is present for all of us. And just like that, the young woman in her late teens who was writing about the idea of technology and nature successfully working together is seeing it in practice.