From conformity assessment to international development, there’s more

I guess I have come a long way in my career since I started out in lowly and menial jobs in the early 2000s (research assistantship when in fact it was just photocopying journal articles and binding documents for distribution). I was reading the material though and learned so much from this informal access to information and knowledge.

I did my best to invest in myself through training, education and accepting challenging work experiences that pushes me out of my comfort zone (i.e. Yamal LNG). I naturally have the courage and fortitude to go on an adventure to truly explore the world. I hope age does not stop me from doing it. The pandemic may have constrained these opportunities but I am certain things will fall into place.

I am now 41 and my kids are growing up fast, my eldest is now an adult. Strangely, I can already find time to do stuff that I thought were not possible after getting married and having kids. My relatives are now encouraging me to study abroad and finally pursue my academic temptation. I’ve realized that my family is out there ready to help in taking over in some of my responsibilities. At times, it is our mindsets that block the kindness and compassion from others.

Five years ago, I thought I was happy working on conformity assessment, but I was never satisfied. I didn’t expect that I would find an opportunity to work for international development and being recognized for it. However, I am still not fully settled and satisfied. I am now eyeing summer school short courses in the Netherlands and the United States by 2022 to prepare for potential doctorate studies which I once decided to forego after getting married in 2013. Now I’m determined even if my projects for the Germans are running until 2024. Time flies fast at midlife but I am thankful I still have the courage and the motivation to do it. I just believe that I am destined to do it.

I once thought that settling for something will be the source of my ultimate happiness but I was the kind of person that can allow myself to continuously accept challenges and always move out of my comfort zone. These are all external things that are all passing and fleeting. You just have to deal with it and not run away from it. That is the hard lesson I have learned in my life. Regardless of my career, my family status, my desires or whatever, these are all temporary. I hate that I am starting to get philosophical and spiritual in this blog, this is all about my work in the environment that I am totally enjoying it at the moment.

Forays into Energy

Inside the DOE Test Chambers in 2021 during R&D work on energy efficient air conditioners

My first trip to the Department of Energy was in 2004, a na├»ve 24 year old who had a string of horrible past relationships, one mishap led me to become pregnant out of wedlock. A geologist colleague of mine brought me along…to look for a husband, probably someone with a PhD because I’m too weird and complicated with a laser focus on environmental protection and I was working on coal development and production (the irony!). Maybe someone with a PhD could understand, at least someone who is open to learning and open-minded enough to discover things with me.

At that time, the Market Market mall was still under construction and the facility was surrounded by open spaces and military barracks overrun by cogon grass. I was working for a local construction company that has a coal operating contract for development and production and I was assigned to support in completing the necessary requirement for the environmental impact statement. I was enjoying my work so much and finding another man was not my priority. I was struggling to make ends meet and at times I was financially strapped but deep inside I know I am onto something valuable though its not big at that time.

My geologist colleague was so disappointed that I did not end up marrying someone who has a PhD. It took years for me to achieve financial security from what I do. Sadly I have to be stuck in an unhealthy relationship not really thinking much about it because the work I’m doing is so exciting and I was just keeping steadfast about my goal on working for the environment and now I am making it in climate change.

I was inside a Balanced Ambient Type Environmental Chamber testing unitary air conditioners. Achieving balance in life is hard. Balancing various aspects of your life is difficult, I have to forego certain responsibilities because I was drawn to other concerns. I have to accept that my marriage was horrible and after years of physical separation, co-dependence and manipulative behaviors, it is not worth saving. I was not discerning in that aspect when I was younger, I thought having a significant other is enough but the lack of spiritual connection and emotional depth in our relationship only made us miserable over the years. He was manipulative enough to convince me to quit certain jobs and projects because it is making him feel uncomfortable and I have to deal with his irrational jealousy over my colleagues.

I ended up spending more time and effort on my work and even added more responsibilities by going back to graduate school again. The academic temptation was so hard to resist especially when it is within your reach and everyone in your professional circle is hinting that that I should pursue a PhD. It was I who wants a PhD and finding someone with a PhD to be your significant other is a form of psychological projection which I guess is dysfunctional behavior, but I was giddy and excited. I need all the prayers I can get to get out of this mess. I also need to look deeply within me, what are my motivations, what are my values what is my core faith and beliefs.

Transformational Change

This does not define me.

Not sure if I will have the courage to post this on my Facebook and Linkedin accounts to drive in traffic to my blog, I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings but I am already associated with refrigeration and air conditioning and I am starting to feel uncomfortable about it. I only started working on the Cool Contributions fighting Climate Change project in 2016 but I am already being associated with fluorinated greenhouse gases particularly hydrofluorocarbons or HFCs.

Over the course of the quarantine, I spent my free time reading spiritual self-help books and lots of articles on the evils of the human ego. Honestly, I don’t want to be associated with HFCs and air conditioners or whatever cooling equipment. The truth is, I am not defined by this. I am not defined by my career and I am not defined by my relationships. I have to live by the Spirit and be my authentic self.

It may seem positive that I am leaving a mark on an industry or for fighting climate change. Though positive, this does not define me, I should treat it with the same open mindedness and acceptance as the negative comments towards me like being complicated and demanding. Be grateful for everything, but your true self is not defined by the perception of the world.

Not really that small

Working on safety and efficiency of household appliances and other devices is not really that small if you consider the scale of how these stuff are used. Regardless whether you are working on large climate change mitigation projects or contributing to small snippets of minor initiatives, you must consider your work as valuable. It must provide depth and meaning to your authentic self in terms of your work. After almost 20 years, I am consistently still working for the environment and now my role has never been this critical due to the issue of climate change.

Honestly, this is a point in my life where I guess I am now reaping the fruits of my past efforts. I have experienced the shift from being so detail oriented trying so hard to prove myself to just overseeing the work of my junior colleagues and relaxing. Trusting that they can deliver. I don’t have to be that cranky and obnoxious senior staff because I am pretty much secure of what I have and just expecting the best from what they can give.

I could not care much about the comments, views, perspectives or judgments about my line of work that I once experienced in my mid 20s. I guess I have proved them wrong that I am working on something serious and not just a hobby or just fighting for a cause without much substance. I truly need younger people to help me on this, to understand that this is not just some passing fad and there are problems that need to be addressed through climate action even if that means working on the small stuff.

The Little Things

Before, I was involved in big things which include big stuff from oil and gas projects, my HSE foray in Yamal LNG was the biggest challenge a boss gave me, we had fatalities on record and I have to support my superiors in taking accountability as the health and safety focal. Accounting for GHG emissions was the least of my concerns. Though natural gas is low carbon compared to coal and petroleum, I was still working for one of the biggest source of emission in the world. If the Yamal gas reserves can be calculated as CO2 released in the atmosphere over a period of time, it may still overtake the energy transition rate making net zero longer and further into the future. Nobody is looking at it.

If only people at climate policy could see the amount of resources invested in getting the gas out of the cold, it seems the energy transition is at a turtle’s pace globally. Anyway, the emission will be accounted by the end user and not the source of fuel. They will only account for what they have used for their own power generation or leaks in the system, and of course the flare. It has to be flared for reasons of safety. In the end, the resource owner will still profit from this. Do we really need a think tank for this?

I think what we need is someone like Saint Paul, who got converted in Damascus. We all need that conversion to get a larger perspective and bigger picture. To be emphatic enough to see what the other is seeing or feeling about it.

I could not truly say that I am working on small stuff right now. Work on climate policy is still essential and making window-type air conditioners achieve ultra efficiency is still extremely relevant. What matters is that I am thankful and grateful for everyone I have encountered on working on fighting climate change. At times, you can be on both sides but do not lose the vision, the mission and the goal.

Lost my confidence in you a long time ago

At my age, I’m way too old for bull…lies do happen in consumer products, but nothing currently stops these companies from pursuing environmental claims. This is obviously Greenwash again, another environmental declaration that was not verified and have not undergone a process of assessing its integrity.

Finding meaning in agreements

What have you done for me Paris Agreement, give me a terrible headache? Woke up this morning as if I had a hangover from a drinking spree. Spent my day yesterday listening to our NDC public consultations and it was strangely draining as if someone was throwing psychic attacks at me in a strange way. Are there really people out there who have so much evil intentions towards me? Or are they just not mature enough to handle their emotions. I hate being unproductive with so many things to do. Quite proud of the sectors I supported given their presentation of quality numbers ready for verification by the UNFCCC in case they undertake a technical review based on the Paris Rulebook.

When I left full-time auditing work in 2016 to work full time on climate policy on behalf of a foreign government, my peers in testing, inspection and certification (TIC) could not understand where I am heading to. They thought I’ll do auditing work for other (TIC) firms, others thought I’ll set up my own business and do management consulting for other organizations, others even thought I would be a full time mom and be economically dependent on my spouse. They did not even know who I was working for when I told them the name of my organization. Honestly, others would like to believe that you are worse-off in order for them to feel good about themselves.

I have always been intuitive in my career choices, I know climate change is a big thing and would eventually be a big problem. I knew that after my training and courses in environmental economics that carbon trading would work in solving the problem. Yet, when I entered the workforce in my early 20s, people would look down on me perceiving that what I am aiming for is just a hobby and does not require formal training. In my first job, they thought I was just doing secretarial work documenting environmental management systems. I am not a doctor, not a lawyer, not even a registered engineer. My parents even expected that I would just find a “good” husband or just a partner who would take care of me and they thought that would be the most successful thing that I could achieve. Sadly, that was their illusion and that was not my reality.

I did my best to look for training and more learning experiences. I even have to put up with controlling and manipulative mentors who just made my life hell during verification work. Giving me the bulk of the dirty jobs yet taking the credit and not getting recognized or acknowledged for it. Just let it go and make it a learning experience, I guess the tables have turned now and I’m reaping the benefits of my hard work. Just stay humble and always thank God for your blessings. Understand that no one will fully understand, unconsciously people may send out negative intentions because of their own lack of maturity, just seek for protection from all these negativity. If I feel bad, I just blog about it.

Paris, after years of frustration with Kyoto mechanisms

Its been five years since the Paris Climate Accord, back then the fact that everyone will now commit to reduce global greenhouse (GHG) gas emissions shook and redirected my career. I barely had any GHG verification jobs back then, sensing the lack of career challenge on my part, my French boss re-assigned me to work the quality, health and safety aspects in the production of liquefied natural gas (LNG) pipelines and modules for the Yamal LNG project in Siberia. Since 2012, my very little GHG verification work has focused on the oil and gas industry and with the energy transition to low emission energy sources after COVID-19, I believe that GHG verification work will be far more valuable in cleaning up where we have left off.

Being stuck in my house and a 3 Km radius to get household supplies for the past nine months had some frustrating consequences. I miss going to the office and I miss going to the field. Climate policy can be done at home but climate action requires that you are in the forefront of making change happen. Looking back, have we achieved much since we had that agreement?

Strangely, the greatest climate action can be attributed to the COVID-19 global pandemic which halted the carbon economy to prioritize safety control measures. In the process, there have been so much deaths, so much losses, yet there is hope that there are alternatives and possibilities. I am thankful for being at the forefront where key people heed my advice in managing both health outcomes and GHG emissions associated with infection control.

My work life during the pandemic was in preparation for “Green Recovery” and more work on alternative climate-friendly technologies in the provision of indoor air quality through air conditioning and dehumidification. Who would have thought I am doing something that in the end will contribute to the Paris Agreements?

I think most people are still stuck at “going green” and being “eco-friendly” without really much connection of how much it has something to do with an overarching global compliance to a multilateral or international environmental agreement. The tricky thing about climate change is that it covers everything from using electricity, driving your car or throwing out your waste into a landfill. Eating meat and your food choices can also contribute to climate change through the GHG emissions in the supply chain from the forest, farm up to the table in your home. The challenge is to be aware of this with transparent information and not greenwash.

The difference with Paris from Kyoto is the equal attention over climate change adaptation and the loss and damage from disasters that are directly attributed to climatic aberrations. It just makes it a balancing act for everyone where you prepare for disasters while reducing your emissions at the same time without priority over other. The current compliance mechanism considers the small stuff you do, “Energy Efficiency and Conservation as a Way” of life is a good start, though the challenge is the measurement, reporting and verification.

I think the frustration come from this, we do stuff but we could not measure. This makes our impact less significant. Significance is not about gaining widespread public acceptance but by being able to effectively and quantitatively demonstrate that we have done something. My country is in the process of “finalizing” its nationally determined contribution but the numbers are continuously being contested because the lack of a systematic verification.

My Just Transition: Health and Safety in the Energy Transition

I still encounter limited expertise on the occupational health and safety aspects that comes with the energy transition. In general, the Just Transition postulates that occupational health will improve in the shift towards low emission or low carbon alternatives like renewable energy technologies and energy efficient alternatives. Though this is still not fully proven at a wider scale since most of the studies were limited to using coal-fired power plants as baseline.

My foreign counterparts find it extremely interesting that someone from an emerging economy is doing a research on a significant topic on climate change but its sad that I have to compete for funding and more is allocated to them…being sad can make you procrastinate…or are there just so much on my plate again? I guess the demands of the energy transition is stressing me out being one of the few working on this topic and of course managing my household and kids.

Earlier today, I was speaking at an international conference and my son barged in my speech to ask for a sandwich. I have to cut it off and the moderator said it was an emergency. I asked my daughter to help but she couldn’t care much, why would she care about an advanced topic in technology transfer? Sometimes its a bit complicated to explain to my kids. Not to brag, how many people can talk about advanced methodologies in greenhouse gas inventories locally, but I also have to be mommy and get stuck with my kids in WFH. At the end of the day my son told me I’m “incredible”, a new word in his vocabulary.

Financing the energy transition…another go at a different perspective

Sometimes your plans don’t materialize but just keep a positive outlook. Maybe you just need to let go of the things that no longer serve its purpose in your life. Clean up and throw it all away, good things will come. Just be generous in times of financial constraints because you know you are truly blessed regardless of your income. Generosity does not only depend on monetary value. Time, effort and just being kind and understanding are highly appreciated. God can take away everything anyway…always be grateful.

This blog is not about my spiritual awakenings and personal crises where I am often blamed and antagonized by pathetic self-limiting assholes. This is all about career and learning. There’s another one out there within the blog-o-sphere but I won’t share the link. Title may seem misleading but I guess work on the energy transition has been super fulfilling so far. Professionals a generation ago could not imagine building a career on fighting climate change professionally, but I am so happy I chose this career path.

Yes, I always wanted to work on the carbon markets and emissions trading since I completed my undergraduate degree in economics but that seems like ages away. Barely had much assignments on the Kyoto Mechanisms, I thought things would change with the Paris Agreements in 2015 but it was just a slow turtle pace transition to carbon neutrality in emerging economies. Do they even understand what we are talking about?

I was at the 2019 Paris Climate Finance Week for the free food and unlimited coffee while sneaking my way into The Louvre for snapshots. We really are worlds away from the essence of the Paris Agreements, these crazy men from Brussels and Luxembourg do operate in a bubble. At least they have much more money to spare. Maybe that’s how they view climate financing, be generous enough to give away, it will all come to back to you eventually.