Meet PhD candidate Jonas Sonnenschein
Jonas Sonnenschein is a PhD candidate at the International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics (IIIEE) at Lund University. He has a background in Philosophy & Economics (BA) from Germany – where he originally comes from – and he holds a Master in Environmental Management and Policy (MSc). Before moving to Lund for PhD studies with his wife and two daughters, he lived and worked several years in Slovenia. Besides Jonas' research interest in low-carbon energy policies he is interested in various outdoor activities such as hiking, climbing, kayaking and cross-country skiing.
Five quick questions with Jonas Sonnenschein:
What is currently on your research agenda?
Currently, I contribute to experimental simulations of decisions that impact energy use and CO2 emissions. We investigate the systematic deviation from economically rational behaviour – in other words, we check whether we as energy consumers are ‘predictably irrational’. Ultimately, this research aims to contribute to a better policy design – policies made for humans and not for rational utility maximizers.
What drives you to be a researcher?
The main drive behind my research is that I see an urgent need for more evidence-based policy making. In the field of climate change mitigation, there is clear evidence that a rapid and radical transition of the energy system is needed. This requires ambitious and effective policy interventions. Hence, the focus of my research is on the evaluation of existing low-carbon energy policies and recommendations for the design of future interventions.
Why did you become a PhD candidate at the IIIEE?
The IIIEE offers an open, interdisciplinary research-atmosphere. It is not limited to a single topic, so I constantly get new input and ideas from other fields and research areas, which I find important. Moreover, the institute has its own Master's programme in which I teach in a couple of classes with great pleasure. Finally, my mentor Luis Mundaca is one of the reasons why I’m here. He is an internationally established environmental economist with large expertise in the area of carbon and energy policy evaluation.
What are the implications of your research for society?
Thinking about the practical impact of my own work is at times disillusioning. As a research community we do have an impact, but figuring out one’s own contribution to the solution of real world challenges is not so straightforward. I guess my research contributes to the ‘noise’ that the research community creates, which tells politicians that there is an urgent need to act on climate change mitigation, and that there are better and worse policies to do so. It is import to research the unsuccessful policy interventions, too, so that not too much hope and effort are put into them. There is for instance very little empirical evidence that ‘green growth’ policies, i.e. policies that both stimulate economic growth and decrease environmental impacts, have worked as planned in the area of climate change mitigation. Still, the green growth paradigm has large influence on the climate-energy policy agenda.
Where do you see your research five years from now?
In five years from now we will be discussing and researching much more ambitious and radical policy interventions than today. More and more countries already consider a ban of petrol and diesel cars, start to phase out coal-fired power generation and plan ambitious policies to renovate the stock of poorly insulated old houses. More radical interventions will certainly have an impact on both economic and behavioural aspects of decision-making. So in five years I think there will be work for me as a researcher in green behavioural economics.
Interview and text by Cecilia von Arnold