Pre-Doctoral Economics Intern

With world attention on both the environment and the economy, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is where policymakers and business leaders turn for win-win solutions. By focusing on strong science, uncommon partnerships and market-based approaches, we tackle urgent threats with practical solutions. We are one of the world’s largest environmental organizations, with more than two million members and a staff of approximately 630 scientists, economists, policy experts, and other professionals around the world. We operate in 22 geographies with unique projects running across four programs. You will be part of a vibrant workplace that welcomes diverse perspectives, talents and contributions, where innovation and results are a way of life.

Environmental Defense Fund (, a leading international nonprofit organization, creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. EDF links science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships. Connect with us on EDF VoicesTwitter and Facebook.


Program Overview

Ensuring that economics is the backbone for all EDF policy positions, the Office of the Chief Economist (OCE) is the nexus of economics at EDF.  To be effective in this role, OCE provides thought leadership and programmatic support for other EDF programs and fosters relationships with economists in academia, think tanks and international organizations.


Overall Function

As part of a new initiative intended to further strengthen EDF’s thought leadership on environmental policy, OCE is piloting a Pre-Doctoral Internship program this summer. OCE will host two PhD students in Economics at an EDF office over the summer to explore topical environmental policy issues (please see list below), interact with experts inside and outside EDF to learn about the dimensions most relevant to policy makers and to identify critical research gaps and opportunities. The objective is to give the PhD student an opportunity to learn what research questions are most important to policy making and to help identify a research agenda that can make a critical contribution to the policy debate.


We are looking for strong and highly motivated early program PhD students with an open mindset who are able to think comprehensively and creatively about the issues at hand. We encourage applicants with an interest in subfields such as behavioral, labor, energy and network economics and industrial organization in addition to environmental and resource economics. We would also encourage active involvement from the student’s academic supervisor (if the student already has one), who could help guide the student to maximize returns from the program, together with the senior staff in OCE who will be hosting the student for the summer.


Key Responsibilities

  • Compile a literature review (in a report/publication) summarizing the most important contributions to date within the topic area.
  • Connect with key OCE and other EDF staff as well as outside experts and stakeholders to identify the most important policy issues and related research questions in the relevant space.
  • Potentially contribute to an expert workshop to hone in on the most valuable research questions.
  • Outline, together with EDF and outside experts, a research agenda for themselves and the broader research community and identify critical researchable questions and the methods and data that could potentially be used to address them.
  • Deliver a final presentation describing the lessons learned and the proposed research agenda.
  • Develop in more detail an approach to answer one of the questions identified in the research agenda, including what data, methods, or tools the student could use.


  • PhD student already enrolled in a PhD program in Economics or closely related field - preferably in their first or second year.
  • Motivated by a desire to do policy-relevant research.
  • Excellent research and analytical skills.
  • Willingness to take initiative.
  • Ability to work independently, as well as with supervision.
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills.
  • Skilled at forming new relationships and interacting with experts from other disciplines.
  • Ability to work with colleagues and partners of varied backgrounds and experience.

Topic areas

Charting a Policy Path for Negative Carbon Emissions

Negative Emissions Technologies (NETs) are necessary to keep global temperature rise within 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius, but implementation of the most promising options is currently small in scale and very expensive. What policy instruments could be leveraged to stimulate further research and development and access economies of scale for these emerging technologies? (Based in the NYC office.)


Climate Risk and the Value of Adaptation in Agriculture

Understanding the links between the agricultural sector and climate impacts is critical when it comes to food security and economic output. Across the broad toolkit of methodologies used in economics, which ones can be used to demonstrate and quantify the risks from climate change and the value of agricultural adaptation approaches - in particular in regions where there is a need to inform decision makers on climate-related risk and the need for more ambitious climate and adaption policy? (Based in the NYC office.)


Policy Alternatives for Addressing Methane Emissions from the Energy Sector

Swift reductions in methane emissions are critical if we are to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. For the oil and gas sector, what are the innovative policy designs that can incentivize emissions reductions while taking into account second-best policy considerations for the regulated (natural monopoly) part of the industry? What mechanism designs would be best to deal with the challenges of incomplete monitoring and attribution of methane leaks? (Based in the NYC office.)


Policy Options for Electrification of Medium- and Heavy-duty Vehicles

Vehicle electrification will play a crucial role in achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050. What are the policy alternatives that can enable rapid and cost-efficient electrification of medium- and heavy-duty trucks? What are the costs associated with these policies and how do they affect outcomes such as pollution, health and grid investment? (Based in the NYC office.)


Human Capital and Productivity Benefits of Reduced Air pollution

Reductions in air pollution may result in a boost to human capital accumulation and overall labor productivity and, thereby, yield positive spillovers to the broader economy, but there is currently little research documenting these productivity benefits. What are the empirical approaches and data that could be used for new research on the effects of air pollution on educational outcomes, human capital accumulation and labor productivity? (Based in the NYC or DC office.)


Water Markets and Climate Adaptation in the American West

Market mechanisms for managing and reallocating water can help the arid American West adapt to a changing climate by encouraging conservation and cooperation as well as sending important price signals to inform investment decisions. However, water markets have historically been hampered by transaction costs in their development and operation. What is the current and future role of markets for water in the West, and which mechanisms can harness the efficiency benefits of markets while lowering transaction costs? (Based in the San Francisco office.)


Wholesale Electricity Market Design for a Decarbonized Energy Future

Decarbonizing the US energy system will require electricity market design that steer large capital flows into investment in clean energy technologies and away from the traditional fossil fuel-dependent resources incumbent to the energy markets. How do we design wholesale electricity markets to enable decarbonization at lowest cost? What lessons can we draw from previous research in energy and financial economics, industrial organization and mechanism design regarding which market design elements are the most crucial to enable the clean energy transition and where are the remaining research gaps? (Based in the NYC office.)



New York, NY



10-12 weeks during the Summer.



Full-time, 35 hours per week.



This internship would involve compensation for hourly work paid at a rate competitive with leading non-profits.



In your application, in addition to your CV, please provide a letter in which you describe why you are interested in this program, what you are hoping to learn from it, and which topic area(s) are of most interest to you. Please also describe how you envision addressing the topic and which body of economic theory and methods you think could be leveraged. We also strongly encourage applicants to enclose letter(s) of recommendation from a supervisor/teacher describing why the student would be a great fit and what they see as the benefits of participation in this program.

Environmental Defense Fund is an equal opportunity employer where an applicant's qualifications are considered without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, veteran status, genetic information, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or any other basis prohibited by law.