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News
An ERC Advanced Grant for EVOCLIM. Candidates invited for 3 senior and 4 junior research positions

Date: 2017-04-20

Prof. Jeroen van den Bergh from ICTA-UAB was just awarded a prestigious ERC Advanced Grant for the project “Behavioral-evolutionary analysis of climate policy: Bounded rationality, markets and social interactions” (EVOCLIM). It amounts to almost 2 million € in funding and will run from January 2018 for a period of 5 years. EVOCLIM offers three postdoc positions (two of 5 years and one of 3 years) and four PhD research positions (each 4 years).

Project description
The project will develop a new set of models to assess the performance of policy instruments – such as various carbon pricing and information provision instruments – in terms of employment, equity and CO2 emissions. Currently, distinct climate policies are studied with incomparable approaches involving inconsistent criteria and impacts. EVOCLIM aims to unite core features of such approaches within a behavioral-evolutionary framework, blending insights from behavioral, environmental and evolutionary economics. The key novelty is linking climate policies to populations of heterogeneous consumers and producers characterized by bounded rationality and social interactions. This offers three advantages: one can evaluate the effectiveness of very different climate policy instruments in a consistent and comparative way; one can examine policy mixes by considering interaction between instruments from a behavioral as well as systemic perspective; and one can simultaneously assess policy impacts mediated by markets and social networks. 

EVOCLIM will be guided by the following goals: (i) test the robustness of insights on carbon pricing from benchmark approaches that assume representative, rational agents; (ii) test contested views on joint employment-climate effects of shifting taxes from labor to carbon; (iii) examine various instruments of information provision under distinct assumptions about social preferences, interactions and networks; (iv) study regulation of commercial advertising as a climate policy option in the context of status-seeking and high-carbon consumption; and (v) explore behavioral roots of energy/carbon rebound. The research has a general, conceptual-theoretical rather than a particular country focus. Given the complexity of the developed models, it involves numerical analyses with parameter values in realistic ranges, partly supported by insights from questionnaire-based surveys among consumers and firms. One survey examines information provision instruments and social interaction channels, while another assesses behavioral foundations of rebound.

Broader scientific meaning of the project
EVOCLIM is ground-breaking in that it develops the first systematic program on behavioral-evolutionary thinking about climate policy. This creates bridges between environmental economics, behavioral economics, evolutionary economics and modelling, policy sciences, sociology and environmental psychology. It will support a consistent comparison of the full range of regulatory (both pricing and standard-setting) and information-provisioning instruments in climate policy. The project can further provide useful methodological lessons for other areas of public policy from an evolutionary systems angle. In addition, it may broaden the scope of evolutionary economics which so far has paid scant attention to environmental and climate policies. In particular, it contributes to a wave of macro-oriented evolutionary, multi-agent models, which serve as an alternative to both general equilibrium and mainstream macroeconomic models in public policy and economic analyses. The approach will further contribute to the field of energy/sustainability transition studies.

Positions and requirements
The organization of EVOCLIM in terms of sub-projects (SPs) is shown in the scheme below. The project will fund three postdoc positions (two of 5 years in SP1 and SP5, and one of 3 years in SP4) and four PhD researchers (each 4 years, in SP2 and SP3). Cooperation and synergies between the sub-projects will be secured by the two integrative sub-projects SP1 and SP5. The first of these develops the framework and basic models, and can be seen to assure consistency and synergy of SPs at a methodological level. Next, SP5 guides the survey questionnaires and integrates the policy insights produced by the other SPs, on the basis of which it further develops and analyses policy packages. 

We are looking for suitable candidates with a background in behavioral economics, evolutionary economics, environmental economics, macroeconomics or some combination of these. Skills and experience in evolutionary modelling/computation or evolutionary game theory are highly appreciated for the postdoc and PhD student positions in SP1-4. Candidates for the postdoc position in SP5 need to have a good knowledge of climate economics/policy and experience with questionnaire-based surveys. Postdoc candidates should have at least two publications in good international journals. Salaries are competitive and negotiable, reflecting experience and excellence of candidates.

For expression of interest or information, contact Prof. Jeroen van den Bergh via jeroen.bergh@uab.es

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