November 1, 2019

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Eyal Frank is one of the SIPA PhD alumni who presented at the inaugural CEEP conference.
Eyal Frank is one of the SIPA PhD alumni who presented at the inaugural CEEP conference.
What do bat populations, tropical fisheries, and environmental justice have in common? Each was the subject of a research project showcased at the inaugural conference of SIPA’s Center for Environmental Economics and Policy 
(CEEP). And each helps illustrate a crucial issue related to environmental change and sustainability-minded policy.

 

CEEP was established earlier this year to undertake original research into the causes of environmental change, the consequences of this change for humanity, and the policies that can prevent and, where possible, reverse harmful environmental change to ensure sustainable development. CEEP furthermore aims to share this knowledge with policymakers, fellow researchers, students, and concerned citizens worldwide. The Center’s research is defined in part by the integration of analytic approaches from economics with the natural sciences and engineering.

The October 18 conference highlighted research findings of five alumni and three current students in SIPA’s unique PhD program in Sustainable Development. Individual presentations represented the center’s four focus areas: climate change, ecosystem services, health, and policy design.

CEEP co-directors Douglas Almond and Wolfram Schlenker, both SIPA professors, made opening remarks.

Almond reflected on CEEP’s compelling journey to date, emphasizing the importance of establishing CEEP at an institution like SIPA. He also praised the PhD program, attributing its success to its highly rigorous and interdisciplinary nature.

“The program combines training in two hard disciplines, integrating analytic approaches of economics with technical skills of natural sciences and engineering training,” he said.

In lieu of a conventional keynote, James Stock, Harvard’s Harold Hitchings Burbank Professor of Political Economy, presented some of his research on renewable fuel standards (RFS) and what climate policy design can learn from it.

Following Stock’s remarks, the program moved on to audience heard research presentations on a variety of issues including technology adoption, fisheries governance, antiretroviral therapy, environmental justice in environmental markets, and inequality and flooding.

Many stressed the relevance of the Center in the current academic ecosystem.

“The program spotlights the human element of decision-making and really brings people together more,” said Charles Taylor, a current PhD student who presented work on the “Impact of Insecticides on Infant Health and Long-term Outcomes.”

In additon to the current students in attendance, PhD alumni returned to attend the conference, praising the new center.

“You need an institution like CEEP that places a spotlight at the boundary between disciplines since that is where some of the most complicated and hard to answer questions are,” said Eyal Frank PhD ’17, who is now an assistant professor at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy.

Anna Tompsett PhD ’14, who is currently an assistant professor at Stockholm University, said “the Center is instrumental in giving people formational training and even creating faculty positions for young scholars to do truly transformative inter-disciplinary academic work.”

In addition to the research presentations the conference featured a concluding roundtable on financial firms’ role in sustainable investing followed by a reception for the 100-plus attendees.

— Shalini Seetharam MPA ’20