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The need for climate adaptation in coastal environments in the US (and around the world) and the development of resilient and protective systems in those same areas are increasing and in some cases already keenly felt. Much of this adaptation will require infrastructure, ranging from traditional flood barriers to natural infrastructure (dunes, floodways, wetlands, receiving basins, barrier islands, multiple use retention areas, etc.). This work is typically capital intensive and often expensive, and responsibility for design, construction, operations, maintenance and financing often split among various public authorities. Within the US, a fundamental need for efficient and available financing systems for this critical infrastructure work exists, as current US financing systems (federal and state appropriations, state funding and matches, long standing taxes and user-fee based systems) are not providing necessary resources or efficiency in delivering those resources. (This need is global, though our focus for this work is currently domestic.)
The Economist we are seeking would examine existing infrastructure finance systems, and work to develop new concepts, ideas and approaches for financing of coastal adaptation and resilience needs. We anticipate a primary focus on financing of natural infrastructure (i.e., natural defenses and ecological engineering) that lessen the potential impacts of sea level rise and storm damage on coastal communities. The approaches would include, but would not be limited to public finance (taxes, fees, community bonds, etc.), private (market and philanthropic), and ecosystems services. This analysis and these approaches are intended to help shape the organization’s policy positions and support its advocacy, and to help broaden the thinking and policy applications for financing these kinds of projects nationally. The Economist’s analysis will ideally include thought leading original publishable research with the potential to drive the development of this field, “in-house” analyses for use by other staff within the organization, as well as white papers aimed at policy makers, journalists, and the public at large.
The initial primary focus of the work within EDF will be on financing options around ongoing restoration and protection needs within the Mississippi River Delta (filling a significant gap in our work in the Delta) and then assessing ideas for broader applicability or utility to other coastal locations in the United States. The Mississippi River Delta is the site of the largest adaptation effort underway in the country today. More broadly within EDF, we would expect this area of work to be applicable to other Ecosystems Program activities, and could potentially support an ongoing collaboration between the Oceans and Ecosystems programs and the Office of the Chief Economist on coastal resiliency in the Northeastern United States.
The Economist can be based in Washington, DC; New York City, NY; Boston, MA; with a preference for Washington, DC. S/he will work closely with and under the guidance of EDF’s Chief Economist Frank Convery and work with other economists, natural scientists, and policy specialists throughout EDF. S/he will officially report to the Deputy Director, Water Programs. S/he may also have managerial responsibilities for more junior staff.