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Alumni & PhD portrait : Filippo Maria D’Arcangelo

Alumni experience



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This portrait was published in TSE Energy & Climate Center newsletter :

Portrait : Filippo Maria D’Arcangelo

As a student at TSE, Filippo studied how to  use  economic  policies  to  manage  common resources, with applications to the environment, agriculture and climate change.  Since  September,  he  has  been  advising  the  OECD  on  economic  policy,  with a special focus on green growth. 

How did you become interested in studying carbon markets?

Many   countries   have   addressed   the   threat   of  climate  change  by  asking  firms  to  pay  for  their  atmospheric  emissions,  in  order  to  curb  their  pollution.  In  my  latest  research,  I  study  the  (often  unexpected)  ways  in  which  firms  have  responded  to  these  interventions.  I  find  that  manufacturing  firms  have  adapted  and  innovated   their   productive   processes,   as   a   consequence  of  the  introduction  of  carbon  markets,  ultimately  becoming  more  efficient.  In the context of the European carbon market, I  also  study  its  effect  on  firms’  international  investment decisions.
Climate  change  is  one  of  the  most  pressing  challenges facing humanity. As economists, we understand  the  importance  of  well-designed  policies  in  reconciling  economic  development  with   long-term   sustainability.   My   research   aims    at    providing    evidence-based    policy    recommendations   to   ensure   that   climate   change  is  addressed,  while  economic  activity  is preserved.

What do you hope to achieve in your new role?

In September, I joined the Economic Directorate at the OECD. I am involved in the analysis and study of economic policies  for  the  OECD  member  states  and  beyond,  with  a  special  focus  on  green  growth.  This  opportunity  will  bring  me  to  the  forefront  of  policy  research,  putting  me  in  a  position  to  influence  national  and  international  policymakers.
Global problems, such as climate change, need to be addressed at a coordinated, supranational level. The OECD is  in  the  perfect  position  to  do  this,  because  of  its  international  outreach  and  authoritative  role.  It  will  be  my  continuous effort to strengthen the empirical and analytical research the OECD pursues in support of its policy recommendations.

How has your time at TSE prepared you for your new role? 

TSE  can  count  on  exceptional  resources  that  are  invaluable  for  a  policy-interested  economist  such  as  myself.  First,  its  PhD  program  is  rooted  in  excellency  and  the  whole  school  strives  to  provide  its  students  with  a  wide  array of technical tools. Second, TSE has gathered and maintained a very wide and diverse community around its researchers. Other research institutions, the private sector, and international organizations contribute frequently to this community. As a PhD, I was grateful to be continuously exposed to ideas from diverse perspectives by means of conferences, seminars and workshops. TSE has internationally renowned researchers, with a specialization in environmental  and  climate  change  economics.  I  could  count  on  the  expertise  and  feedback  of  the  very  active  environmental group when working on my thesis.

What is the role of economists in these challenging times?

It is the duty of economists to maintain their efforts in providing answers which are rooted in scientific reasoning. In time of pressing crisis, there is a strong temptation to give in to oversimplified reasoning and erroneous solu-tions. Economists have perfected instruments to estimate the causal impacts of public policies and have an infor-med view on which of them work and how. It is thus our duty to guide the public discourse, providing solutions that are effective, efficient and equitable.The response to global crises, such as the climate crisis or the current Covid-19 pandemic, have often been uni-lateral. In the absence of coordination, national interests prevail in a scenario similar to the “Prisoner’s Dilemma”, where the common good is abandoned for individual interests. Economists working in international institutions such as the OECD can play a crucial role in fostering the cooperation needed to overcome global crises.

How is Covid-19 impacting the fight against climate change?

While the number of victims tragically increases, we also experienced an improvement in environmental data. This results from the fall in economic activity as many countries strengthened lockdowns, but also from changes in the way we work, consume and produce. It is not clear yet whether any of these effects will be persistent but the question arises as to whether a similar radical transformation could be enforced to tackle climate change. On the one hand, this crisis shows us that innovation, technology and ingenuity can contribute a great deal to help us to adapt and overcome difficulties, while employers and employees adopt new solutions for their daily work. Since these changes have occurred after the lockdowns, it also shows that it is hopeless to expect any dramatic change to happen on its own: coordination should be enforced with the right policies. On the other hand, the statistics show the immense economic cost of restricting economic activity and we are heading towards a new economic crisis. We also observe how, when we are forced to adopt drastic policies such as the lockdown, the burden is not equally shared.
With this tradeoff in mind, there are two false ideas common to the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change. First, denial can be incredibly dangerous: in the first weeks of the pandemic, its seriousness was underplayed and this has cost time and thousands of lives. If the public is deaf to the scientific community, a few discordant voices can pollute the debate and favor inertia to protect personal interests at the cost of the common good. Second, the message that a reduction of economic development is inevitable, or even desirable, is equally damaging. We are just at the beginning of this crisis, yet people are losing their jobs, their firms and their means for survival. This is evidently not desirable, but it is also not inevitable. Our ability to adapt and innovate will eventually help us through this downturn, while the state should intervene to compensate those who are most affected.

Do you have any career advice for future TSE students?

An important component of my PhD life is that I always kept engaged with diverse environments and people. As academics,  we  want  to  establish  a  flourishing  network  with  peers  all  over  the  world,  to  disseminate  and  share  ideas.  It  is  also  important  to  participate  in  outreach  with  public  institutions  and  the  private  sector,  so  that  our  research is transferred into action. The latter is sometimes harder to do, as it requires time and skills that we tend not to train as much. Yet it was, for me, a very rewarding experience and an element of my success in finding a job

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