The Stockholm Environment Institute is an international not-for-profit research organization that has been engaged in environment and development issues at local, national, regional and global policy levels for 25 years.
Our goal is to bring about change for sustainable development by bridging science and policy. We do this by conducting integrated analysis that supports decision-makers.
SEI's work is interdisciplinary in nature, drawing upon engineering, economics, ecology, ethics, operations research, international relations and software design.
We work all around the world building capacity for integrated sustainability planning through training and collaboration on projects.
Meet our new Center Director
Q&A: Michael Lazarus on taking the helm of SEI's U.S. Center
Michael Lazarus, who became Centre Director on Jan. 1, has built his career at SEI. He joined the U.S. Center in 1989, when it was housed at the Tellus Institute in Boston, focusing on reform of the U.S. electricity sector and on energy planning and climate change mitigation capacity-building, using SEI's Long-range Energy Alternatives Planning (LEAP) tool.
In the early 2000s, after moving to Seattle, he turned his attention to state and local climate action, working with stakeholders in nearly a dozen U.S. states. In the past decade, he has also worked extensively on international climate policy, including carbon markets, and served on the Clean Development Mechanism's Methodology Panel. Most recently, he has focused on what he calls "the vast gulf between energy policy and climate policy" - in particular between the push to exploit fossil fuel resources and support for a transition to a low-carbon, green economy.
Q: What led you to apply for the Centre Director position?
Q: What are your goals as director?
One of SEI's greatest strengths is the breadth of our knowledge, skills and perspectives. We have a well-recognized global presence, at the level of international processes (climate, energy, water, etc.) as well as among national, regional and local institutions and policy-makers. The U.S. Center is home to one of the top experts on climate equity, as well as some of the world's most widely used energy and water planning software tools (LEAP and WEAP), with a global capacity building-programme. We also work closely with stakeholders and policy-makers in the states where we have offices – Massachusetts, California and Washington – to guide state and local water, energy and climate goals and policies.
Q: How big of a domestic impact does SEI-US have, and do you think it should be greater?
Our climate-neutral Seattle study, for example, formed a basis for the city's goals and plan. We've been supporting Washington Governor Inslee's efforts to establish a carbon pricing mechanism, though it's still too early to tell where that will lead. Our Water Group colleagues are engaged in analysis that could help address some of California's more contentious water struggles.
In general, engagement in our nearby policy contexts generates the insights and experience that makes our national and international work much more effective. That local-international connection is what makes SEI-US rather unique, as well as a great place to work.
In that context, it was gratifying to see the debate and attention generated by our Keystone XL analysis. The broader aim of this research is to encourage more careful consideration of policies that can spur greater extraction and trade in fossil fuels. For too long national climate policies, in the U.S. and in many other countries, have focused almost exclusively on reducing fossil fuel consumption, with little attention to the lock-in and market effects of major investments in coal, oil, and gas supply infrastructure, and the policies that support them.
Q: What other U.S. Center activities are you excited about?
We're also ramping up activities in the lead-up to the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP21) this December in Paris. For example, our LEAP team is helping several developing countries to prepare their intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs). Sivan Kartha has created a powerful Climate Equity Reference Calculator tool that both Parties and observers can use as a common platform for rigorous assessment of the INDCs.
In my own work, I'm excited to co-lead our recently launched SEI Initiative on fossil fuel supply and climate change mitigation. It's an effort that epitomizes SEI: teamwork across five centres (U.S., Oxford, Nairobi, Bangkok and Stockholm) and collaboration with partners in specific policy venues (U.S., Norway, South Africa) on cutting-edge, policy-relevant research.
Q: How will you balance your very substantial research agenda with your CD responsibilities?