Simon Dietz may be only 28, but he is already influencing government policy on climate change. Fresh from his PhD in environmental economics at the London School of Economics, he was offered the chance to work on what former Prime Minister Tony Blair called "the most important report on the future ever published by this Government" - the Stern Review Report on the Economics of Climate Change.
"They were looking for a junior academic to come in and offer a different set of skills to the civil servants in the team. I jumped at the opportunity," Dr Dietz said.
In 2006, Lord Stern's report for the Treasury concluded that the world had to act now on climate change or face devastating economic consequences. "Working on the review transformed my career ... I learnt a lot about how policy works and developed new research interests," Dr Dietz said.
In his latest role, he will be trying to shape policy from an academic seat. The newly launched Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy, led by Lord Stern, is a collaboration with the University of Leeds. It aims to ensure that social scientists take a lead role in building climate change policy, improving the evidence base and the tools available to decision-makers. "The emphasis on the economy and on practically trying to drive policy is its unique and distinctive contribution," Dr Dietz said of the centre, of which he is LSE's deputy director.
Key concerns will include examining how to overcome the deadlock in international climate change talks, how developing countries can adapt to climate change, and strategies for reducing emissions. The centre will also consider how different business sectors might take action.
"A classic concern is that if the European Union acts unilaterally to tighten its targets, then certain industries that are mobile will disappear somewhere in the developing world where they can belch out greenhouse gases," Dr Dietz said. "One solution, which seems pretty unavoidable in some respects, is to try to get the sector in question to come to an agreement worldwide about standards."
A team of lawyers will also look at climate change in the context of human rights law.
Dr Dietz said: "What we have here at the LSE is a lot of renowned social science, a lot of famous names who haven't necessarily turned their mind to climate change in the past ... What Andy Gouldson (the Leeds manager of the centre) has done is to assemble a good team of young researchers with a track record in climate change. We think they will complement each other."
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