Cambridge Judge Business School student Geoffroy Dolphin worked with DEFRA to investigate the policy modeling behind DEFRA’s clean air strategy. Geoffroy’s case study report highlighted his greater understanding of the processes, constraints, and outputs of a government department/regulatory agency. Geoffroy told us:

“I was particularly interested in the fellowship advertised by Defra for three reasons. First, the focus of the fellowship was very close to my current research interests. I therefore felt strongly motivated to apply some of my academic experience to help to define Defra’s Clean Air Strategy. The nature of the question at hand shares similarities with the problem posed by excessive CO2 emissions and I feel that having worked on the latter for approximately two years would enable me to make useful contributions to handling the former. Second, I was particularly excited about the skills that would be put to use through this project. On one hand, I look forward to carrying the econometric work, as part of a continuing process of professional development and learning. On the other hand, I am especially motivated by the perspective of working independently while delivering insightful output and engaging deeply with relevant stakeholders. Eventually, the UK Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has been responsible for the country’s [Air Quality] since [2001] and has established itself as a strong authority in this matter. Given my deep interest in environmental policy relevant questions, I was thrilled to contribute to shaping the UK’s Clean Air Strategy.

The fellowship took place within the Air Quality and Industrial Emissions team of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and was focused on the economic analysis of policies that the UK government is considering as part of its (soon to be announced) Clean Air Strategy. This Strategy is being developed with the view of achieving 2030 Emission Reduction Commitments contained in the EC National Emissions Ceilings Directive. Approximately half of the fellowship was spent on producing an impact assessment of the said Directive using in-house economic analysis tools. Another 25% of the time spent within the team was dedicated to the economic analysis of ammonia emissions reduction measures from agriculture. It involved work and interaction with external contractors. The rest of the time was spent on producing ad hoc economic analysis/information.

By working as an fellow at Defra I was hoping to gain a deeper understanding of the application of microeconomic principles to policy questions. Moreover, I was particularly interested in finding appropriate ways to translate these principles into sound econometric analysis. In that respect, I was looking forward to broadening my knowledge and experience with the specific (econometric) properties of microeconomic datasets. Secondly, I wanted to become familiar with Defra’s modelling tools and approaches. My past modelling experiences pertained to the study of long-term macroeconomic developments (i.e. growth) with a specific focus on the impact of capital taxation in overlapping generations (OLG) models. This experience made me familiar with modelling strategies and software (the models were programmed in MATLAB and R). However, I had less experience when it comes to environmental policy modelling and, given the focus of my current research, I was looking to extend my modelling skills in that direction. Finally, collaborating at Defra offered a unique opportunity to get first-hand experience of the policy process. As I am particularly interested in the policy implications of academic research, such an experience would be extremely valuable to me.

Out of the three aims mentioned above, the fellowship did not meet the first one, partially met the second one, and fully met the last one. Regarding the first one, the work carried out during the fellowship did not require to analyze microeconomic datasets. I therefore could not further my knowledge and understanding of microeconometric techniques. However, although I did not develop modelling tools myself during the fellowship I became much more familiar with Defra’s existing economic modelling tools and approaches. In this respect, the fellowship has been greatly beneficial to me. Lastly, I have been fully immersed and engaged, as part of the Air Quality and Industrial Emissions team, in the policy development process surrounding the Clean Air Strategy. I have experienced first-hand how the responsible Minister engages with the Department and how it affects its work.

I have greatly benefitted from this fellowship in the following two ways. First, I gained new knowledge pertaining to local air pollutants. In particular, I acquired an understanding of the scientific dimension of the problem of local air pollution (e.g. what are the specific pollutants presenting a risk for human health and the natural environment, how emissions of air pollutants result in concentrations in specific geographical locations,…) as well as of existing national and international regulation. Second, as a member of the Air Quality and Industrial Emissions team I have obtained a much clearer understanding of the processes, constraints and outputs of a government department/regulatory agency. More importantly, I believe I now have an improved understanding of the needs of such an agency and how academic input can (or not) address them.

Engagement with government organization and policy making bodies in general has always been part of my career objectives and this experience comes as a confirmation of it. Moreover, for the reasons highlighted in the previous section, I believe that the experience gained over the last 6 months will prove invaluable in future relationships with such organizations.”

Geoffroy Dolphin’s fellowship with DEFRA took place between November 2017 and May 2018

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