We have just released the newest episode of our podcast, “Environmental Insights: Discussions on Policy and Practice from the Harvard Environmental Economics Program.” In this latest episode, I engage in a conversation with Joseph Aldy, my Harvard colleague, and an individual with considerable experience at multiple levels and capacities in the U.S. government, including in the White House during the Obama Administration, with the common theme in Joe’s government service being substantial focus on the economic dimensions of energy and environmental policy.
Joe is a Professor of the Practice of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, a University Fellow of Resources for the Future, and a Faculty Research Fellow of the National Bureau of Economic Research. At Harvard, he is also the Faculty Chair of the Regulatory Policy Program in the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government, a Faculty Fellow of the Harvard Environmental Economics Program, and co-founder with me – when he was working full-time at Resources for the Future – of the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements.
Professor Aldy worked in the White House during the first two years of the Obama Administration, helping direct the administration’s climate change policy while serving as Special Assistant to the President for Energy and Environment. In this new podcast – which I very much hope you’ll check out – he remarks that, “the most challenging aspect of the job was recognizing that your to-do list at 7:30 or 8:00 in the morning may get wiped out by something unexpected that happens later that day.” As an example, he references the Deep Water Horizon oil spill in April 2010, which eventually resulted in new government regulations designed to reduce the risk of such accidents in future years.
In addition to reflecting on Joe’s experiences in the Clinton and Obama administrations, much of our conversation also touched on what can be expected from today’s international climate negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Paris Agreement, and from the U.S. government today and in future years.
In the international domain, Aldy characterizes the Paris Climate Agreement of 2016 as providing a solid framework for significant international cooperation and progress. “It says something that we have every country in the world or virtually every country in the world pledging to do something to reduce their emissions,” he says. “I think that is a great first step.”
Turning to domestic U.S. efforts to address climate change, Joe is considerably more skeptical, given the current political context: “Until there are members of Congress or Senators who fear that by being silent on the issue or actively opposing taking action to combat climate change, until they see real political cost at the polls, I think it’s hard to imagine there being a bipartisan future.”
All of this and much more is found in the newest episode of “Environmental Insights: Discussions on Policy and Practice from the Harvard Environmental Economics Program.” Listen to this latest discussion here, where, by the way, you can also find a complete transcript of our conversation.
My conversation with Joe Aldy is the seventh episode in the Environmental Insights series. Previous episodes have featured conversations with:
- Gina McCarthy, former Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- Nick Stern of the London School of Economics discussing his career, British politics, and efforts to combat climate change
- Andrei Marcu, founder and executive director of the European Roundtable on Climate Change and Sustainable Transition
- Paul Watkinson, Chair of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
- Jos Delbeke, professor at the European University Institute in Florence and at the KU Leuven in Belgium, and formerly Director-General of the European Commission’s DG Climate Action
- David Keith, professor at Harvard and a leading authority on geoengineering.