Spring 2024 Issue:

The Case
for Carbon

Sarabeth Brockley ’10 serves one of the most ambitious and critical goals of our century—achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050—and she’s using financial markets to help get us there.

By Claire Kowalchik ’P24 and Carol Olsen Day, Photos by Bill Wadman, Spring 2024

When Sarabeth Brockley arrived at Moravian as a freshman, her plan was to study art and photography. She had earned prizes for her photographs during her high school years and achieved the top score for Advanced Placement in photography. Then in her sophomore year at Moravian, she pivoted in her academic pursuit. To meet an education requirement, Brockley took an environmental science course taught by Diane Husic, now dean of the Center for Scholarship, Research, and Creative Endeavors; director of the environmental studies and sciences program; and professor of biology. The course set Brockley on a journey to becoming a prominent leader in the fast-growing field of carbon dioxide removal (CDR), an essential piece of the strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and arrest the warming of the planet.

In September 2023, after having served roughly two years at NASDAQ as lead advisor for carbon strategy and ESG (environmental, social, and governance— a measure used to screen fiduciary management and investments based on corporate policies in those areas), Brockley was promoted to head of carbon strategy. Job offers flew in from all over the country, and six months after the promotion, Brockley, who was featured in Rolling Stone’s December 2023 article “How Women Are Leading Climate Change,” accepted a position in Austin, Texas, as senior director of climate services at CarbonBetter, a young energy logistics company that specializes in carbon markets and certified carbon portfolios.

The Case for Carbon Strategy

A Journey of Learning

The abrupt academic turn Brockley took at Moravian did not set her on a direct path to where she is today. After graduating with a BS in environmental science, she joined the Peace Corps to work on environmentally focused projects in Peru.

“The Peace Corps opened my eyes to a number of different types of opportunities in international development,” Brockley says. “Your mind runs wild during those two years. On one hand, you kind of have the ‘white savior’ piece smacked out of your head as soon as you go and work anywhere else that’s not the United States but also you’re left figuring out complexities of what diplomacy looks like. Can I be a facilitator of economic development? Am I the one to do that with limited resources, and, if so, what can I do to unlock capital? Ultimately, you find that investing in people and relationships is the most durable currency.”

Can I be a facilitator of economic development? Am I the one to do that with limited resources, and, if so, what can I do to unlock capital? Ultimately, you find that investing in people and relationships is the most durable currency.”

—Sarabeth Brockley ’10

Careers need relationship currency in times of transition. When Brockley returned to the United States, she served as a fellow on an astronomy/ecology team led by Moravian University’s Adjunct Professor of Astronomy Gary Becker at the Mars Desert Research Station in Hanksville, Utah. Concurrently, she was awarded a full presidential fellowship to attend Lehigh University.

Resurfacing her work in climate change, she was invited to travel with the Moravian cohort, led by Husic, attending the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Warsaw in November 2013. The world had changed drastically from when she was an observer with the original Moravian delegation back in 2009. This time she engaged in parts of environmental policy she never considered previously, but she credits her first experience in 2009 as a great influence on her ongoing work in climate and her ability to form meaningful relationships.

Examining what her next steps might be, she consulted with Husic, who encouraged her to pursue studies at Lehigh University, where Brockley earned a master’s degree in climate science and policy. Then it was on to Citizens’ Climate Lobby, where she was the global strategy advisor on carbon pricing and UNFCCC engagement. In 2015, the United Nations Division of Sustainable Development hired her to be its climate and water program officer, and she advanced to director of partnerships development and carbon markets.

Brockley’s career has spanned work with Business for Social Responsibility, the Stockholm International Water Institute, and K2 Integrity. She is a highly sought-after speaker on the global stage at the World Economic Forum and various UNFCCC conferences. She is a strategic advisor to Women and Climate and serves on the boards of the cutting-edge start-ups Biome and Sinkco Labs, addressing the myriad issues of climate change.

“My time at the UN working on the Sustainable Development Goals on a very action-focused agenda with the secretary general’s team—all of it was so new and wild for me, and growing up in Allentown, Pennsylvania, I never thought I would have had that opportunity.” But I had powerful people in my life, mentors from my mother to Gary Becker to Diane Husic to Dork Sahagian [professor of earth and environmental science at Lehigh University] always asking, ‘well, why not?’”

Brockley also likely never imagined she’d be hired by NASDAQ in December 2021 as lead advisor in carbon strategy and ESG. “I think we’re more dynamic if we put ourselves in positions that make us uncomfortable,” she says. “Of course, it’s a great way to grow—the looming optic of failure or success—and it’s a key trait of change makers and intrapreneurs.” She adds, laughing: “No one would argue now that one of the most uncomfortable places for a former UN wonk is in the private market working on carbon removal. It’s an exciting place to be.”

The Case for Carbon Strategy

Sarabeth Brockley ’10, at the café Daytime in Brooklyn, works remotely for Austin-based CarbonBetter.

The Carbon Dioxide Removal Space

At the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, the leaders of 196 nations and territories signed a binding international treaty on climate change known as the Paris Agreement. The goal of this agreement: to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial (1850–1900) levels. “Bypassing the Paris Agreement goals doesn’t just mean we miss a target,” says Brockley. “It signifies entering a new era of climate extremes, as outlined by the global scientific community. They forecast a world where droughts last longer, hurricanes hit harder, and sea levels rise unabated, threatening the very fabric of societies. This prognosis stems from cutting-edge climate models and analyses. Its real, and that’s hard for financial markets to grapple with.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the UN body for assessing the science related to climate change, reports that at the current rate of increase, global warming will surpass 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052. According to climate.gov, the period from January through November 2023 was 1.32°C warmer than the pre-industrial average, and January 2024 was the planet’s warmest January on record. To limit global warming to 1.5°C, scientists say, the world needs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 45 percent by 2030 and achieve net zero (zero emissions in the atmosphere) by 2050.

A reduction in greenhouse gases of that magnitude requires a multifaceted strategy. One mechanism is nature-based avoidance coupled with carbon dioxide removal (CDR). Ecosystems and technologies that remove CO2 from the air already exist. Carbon capture, for example, grabs emissions from industrial sources and stores them securely deep underground. Biochar is a soil amendment used in agriculture and forestry that sequesters carbon in the soil. Methods have been developed that capture carbon in the ocean, the world’s largest carbon sink and cycler.

“CDR technologies have emerged as a game-changer, offering a shot at not just halting but potentially reversing some effects of global warming,” says Brockley. Her position aligns with that of the US Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management, which says that “Given limited progress on rapidly cutting global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions—or mitigation—over the past several decades, CDR is now recognized as a critical component for achieving ambitious climate goals like a net zero GHG economy by 2050.”

“The promise of CDR, however,” adds Brockley, “hinges on massive scale-up and integration with a broader spectrum of sustainability efforts, including renewable energy adoption, energy efficiency, and conservation practices. By innovating and investing in CDR technologies, we can forge a path that not only veers away from climate-related disasters but also moves toward restoring ecological balance with heavy investment in ecosystem restoration. We have an opportunity to unlock financial incentives on the buyer and supplier side of carbon removal.”

The Case for Carbon Strategy

At COP28, Sarabeth Brockley ’10 was a panelist for “Gender and Climate-Smart Investing: The Key to Advancing Climate Solutions.”

Investing in CDR

A massive scale-up of CDR requires massive investment in the companies that develop CDR technologies and/or implement them. And this is where Brockley puts her knowledge, skills, and experience to work. To simplify her position at NASDAQ and now at CarbonBetter, Brockley’s job is to guide corporations managing energy logistics to invest in carbon strategies, taking them from a position of measuring and simply offsetting their own greenhouse gas emissions to a larger, broader scope of carbon dioxide removal. That pathway runs through carbon markets.

There are two types of carbon markets—compliance and voluntary. A cap-and-trade program, also known as an emissions trading system, is a compliance market in which governments set a limit or cap on emissions and issue allowances, also known as credits, for emissions. One credit is equivalent to one metric ton of greenhouse gas emissions. If your emissions exceed your credits, you have three options to reduce emissions:

  • Purchase carbon credits from a business that has extra.
  • Reduce emissions by, for example, installing solar panels.
  • Remove carbon by investing in a project or business that pulls carbon out of the atmosphere.

With every year in a cap-and-trade program, emissions can be further limited, which forces a greater demand and therefore higher prices for credits. Increased prices may incentivize a company to invest in reducing its own emissions or in carbon reduction.

Cap-and-trade programs for carbon exist around the world, though not nationally in the United States. California and Washington in the West and a dozen states in the East have established their own programs.

Voluntary carbon markets, which are the majority in the US, draw players who want to offset their emissions or reduce greenhouse gases in the environment for moral reasons or financial incentives, including those recently encouraged by the US landmark IRA legislation and 45Q tax credits.

Whether a company is regulated into offsetting or reducing greenhouse gases or chooses to do so, Brockley steps in and advises on ESG practices. A company that invests in carbon dioxide removal improves their ESG and their investment quality and gains the goodwill of consumers. Besides, adds Brockley, “No one’s ever not wanted to do socially responsible investing. It’s always been the golden goose in the room.”

Aside from doing good for the environment, social justice, and the welfare of employees, a strong ESG is associated with a higher valuation in the stock market. In the February 1, 2024, Forbes article “Environmental, Social and Governance: What Is ESG Investing?” author E. Napoletano reports that in three of the years from 2019 through 2023, VanguardESG outperformed the S&P500. And it is not the only company to do so.

To move companies toward CDR through planning around ESG, Brockley not only makes a case for the value of ESG but often must educate companies about CDR and available technologies.

The majority of carbon dioxide removal projects have been purchased by Microsoft—3,198,103 tons to date—which surpasses net zero emissions for the company and now includes removal of CO2 from the atmosphere. “They’ve been leading the charge because they have the moral imperative to do so, and the social, economic, and political capital.”

Other big investors include Airbus, Frontier Buyers, and Amazon (purchases can be viewed at cdr.fyi). Bain & Company, a global management consulting firm, has recently committed to achieving net-negative greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 through the purchase of carbon removal credits.

“How quickly we can move into large-scale carbon dioxide removal sits withinthe middle market companies—$2 billionto $10 billion,” says Brockley. “Education is a big hurdle—how do we get them more interested in thinking about the difference between pursuing enhanced rock weathering or deep-sea ocean technology in carbon capture?”

Last year, NASDAQ surveyed member companies about investing in CDR and asked what was holding them back from including it in their financial planning for the next few years. Their response was that they didn’t know what it was or how to account for it. “There are quite a few forms of durable carbon dioxide removal technology,” says Brockley, “but biochar [a soil amendment that sequesters CO2 in the soil] is essentially the only one that corporate officers recognize. That’s a fixable education gap. Groups like Airminers offer boot camps to help train the next round of corporate stewards of carbon markets, and the Carbon Business Council leverages a series of experts to help manage change at carbon curious companies.”

These efforts extend beyond mere adaptation to climate change; they represent a fundamental shift toward financing and fostering a sustainable economic future.”

—Sarabeth Brockley ’10

Still, Brockley sees significant movement in the corporate world toward the Paris Agreement’s goals. “These efforts extend beyond mere adaptation to climate change; they represent a fundamental shift toward financing and fostering a sustainable economic future. By prioritizing resilience and innovation, businesses are not only contributing to global climate goals but also tapping into new markets and opportunities, ensuring long-term viability and growth. By marrying profitability with sustainability, we’re not only securing a better world for future generations but also laying the groundwork for a robust, resilient economy.”

The Case for Carbon Strategy

Move to CarbonBetter

Founded over a decade ago, CarbonBetter is a privately held energy logistics firm that consults with companies of all sizes and sectors to help them reduce or eliminate their carbon emissions in line with their financial goals. It’s essentially the work Brockley was doing at NASDAQ, so why move? The shift comes out of the motivation that has driven her career path since her first postgrad experience with the Peace Corps.

“When I think about the places that excite me,” she says, “it’s that I always want to be learning…it’s curiosity, and it’s wanting to develop a web of effective problem solvers— intrapreneurs. It’s systems thinking.

“The piece I was missing at NASDAQ and one of the big reasons I wanted to transition was because I need to learn more about the commodity side of the energy market. Building a science-aligned carbon procurement strategy—that’s the next step to unlock for corporations concerned with credibility claims in the voluntary carbon market,” she explains. “Marrying well-established energy contracts with new initiatives that have emerged to tackle the credibility challenge, that’s an exciting new challenge.” The Science Based Targets initiative, the Voluntary Carbon Markets Integrity Initiative, and the Integrity Council for Voluntary Carbon Markets underline the credibility of carbon removal technologies and the businesses that offer them. These organizations bolster assessments that the voluntary trade of carbon credits will boom, with some analysts predicting a market size of $250 billion by 2050.

CarbonBetter has provided renewable energy contracts and power purchase agreements to energy companies for about 10 years. “They have existing relationships with the Shells, the Chevrons—large energy users and hard-to-abate industries [such as petrochemicals, steel, and cement, for which carbon is an important part of their processes] who are starting now to make bigger gains in emissions reductions and purchasing different types of carbon removal,” says Brockley. According to scenario analysis by MSCI Carbon Markets, demand for carbon offsets could increase from 500 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2e)* in 2023 to 1,312 MtCO2e by 2030 and 4,356 MtCO2e by 2050, led by hard-to-abate sectors.

For me, carbon markets will play a crucial role in the transition to a sustainable world, so my question will always be, ‘well, why not now, and how can I help?”

—Sarabeth Brockley ’10

“What I learned at NASDAQ was that this is all a procurement integrity game,” adds Brockley, “and the people who have existing relationships and contracts will be the ones that are trusted in the same way that NASDAQ’s core fabric has the trust of the financial market. You can reasonably assume that if you’re going to buy and sell stock on the exchange, you’re going to get a certain price based off what is set for that day. Creating something similar for the carbon market space starts with refitting energy contracts to what we know buyers need: liquidity, ease of use, and—above all—integrity.”

To limit global warming to 1.5°C by 2030 and net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 requires the removal of gigatons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The progress in scaling up carbon removal has been slow and needs to accelerate rapidly. Brockley is excited to work at a startup that can innovate, build, and move quickly with laser focus. As companies begin to scale purchase of CDR solutions, they face four key questions:

  • How do we make a credible climate claim?
  • How do we identify high-quality CDR solutions?
  • How do we design a CDR portfolio?
  • How do we source CDR solutions?

“As the senior director of climate services at CarbonBetter, I see our work as a bridge between the scientific imperatives of the Paris Agreement and the practical realities of business operations,” Brockley says. “But science is as clear now as it was in 2015, in 2009, in 1988, and in 1912: We face unprecedented global challenges if we fail to meet these targets. But within this challenge lies immense opportunity. Through targeted action, strategic investment in low-carbon technologies, and a commitment to sustainability, businesses can drive positive change. For me, carbon markets will play a crucial role in the transition to a sustainable world, so my question will always be, ‘well, why not now, and how can I help?’”

*The unit “CO2e” represents an amount of a greenhouse gas with an atmospheric impact that has been standardized to that of one unit mass of carbon dioxide (CO2) based on the global warming potential of the gas.

At Moravian

We’re Reducing Our Carbon Footprint

The Department of Facilities Management, Planning & Construction (FMPC) considers energy conservation with all of its work across campus. Here are some examples: 

  • The Sally Breidegam Miksiewicz Center for Health Sciences is LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver certified for its positive impact on climate change, human health, water resources, biodiversity, the green economy, and community and natural resources.
  • LEED criteria have been implemented in the design of the new HUB.
  • As systems and equipment come up for replacement, FMPC chooses the most energy-efficient and appropriate option for that building.
  • All windows in Comenius Hall have been replaced with operable insulated windows.
  • Smart, controllable thermostats have replaced previous units.
  • Both 1964 vintage 2,670 BTH oil-fired steam boilers have been replaced with two more efficient 3,000 BTH gas-fired condensing hot water boilers.
  • We have a hybrid police car.
  • Electric vehicle charging stations have been installed in two of the campus parking lots.
  • We are continually evaluating and exploring options to bring solar energy to our campus. This is contingent on changes in technology and economic feasibility.

—Allison Ludlow ’10

We’re Working the Greenhound Fund

What better way to establish a fund for sustainability projects than with capital that sustains itself?

The Moravian University Greenhound Fund got its start in 2015 with combined contributions from Jon Soden ’91 and his parents along with the college’s budgetary reserves accumulated from a few years of low energy costs. It works like this: Dollars are drawn from the fund to pay for campus projects designed to have a positive impact on the environment as well as the university’s budget, and the savings accumulated over time pay back the money spent. Following are the projects that have been completed to date.


  • The 100-watt lights in all 210 lampposts on campus were replaced with 30-watt LED lamps. Annual energy savings: 99,338,400 watts, enough to provide 82,851 average households with electricity annually

Parking Lot and Monument Lighting

  • Thirty 400-watt bulbs used to light campus parking lots and monuments were replaced with 28 86-watt and two 101-watt LED bulbs. Annual energy savings: 41,016,000 watts, enough to provide 34,209 average households with electricity annually

Colonial Hall

  • The lights in the Colonial Hall stairwells were upgraded with motion sensors, which eliminated unnecessary energy-gobbling continuous lighting. Annual energy savings: 38,640,000 watts, enough to provide 32,227 average households with electricity annually


  • To eliminate continuous lighting and provide more efficient lighting in the stairwells in the HILL, the facilities department replaced 48 fixtures with LEDs equipped with ultrasonic sensors to detect motion. Annual energy savings: 41,162,000 watts, enough to provide 34,330 average households with electricity annually

Breidegam and Johnston Hall

  • The most recent project approved by the Sustainability Committee and implemented by the facilities department was the most expensive at $48,092 but produces the greatest energy savings. In the Breidegam Fieldhouse and Johnston Hall, 240 367-watt lamps were replaced with 370 75-watt LED lamps. Annual energy savings: 178,030,000 watts, enough to provide 148,482 average households with electricity annually

The economic beauty of the Greenhound Fund, of course, is that once a project is paid for—and all of these will be paid for by the end of the current fiscal year in June—the energy savings and cost savings continue for years.

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