17 Nov 2023

New Faculty Profiles: Jonas Meckling


HBS faculty comprises more than 300 scholars and practitioners who bring leading-edge research, extensive experience, and deep insights into the classroom, to organizations, and to leaders across the globe. We asked new faculty at HBS about their background, their new roles, and their interests.

Jonas Meckling, visiting fellow, Institute for the Study of Business in Global Society

What’s your area of research and what led you to it?
I study the political economy of decarbonization, asking why some economies are more effective at decarbonizing than others. Specifically, I examine how business shapes climate and energy policy and how public policy enables or hinders the transition to a decarbonized economy.

It is always a bit of a mystery why we do what we do, but I’d say my childhood shaped my passion. As a kid, I loved the outdoors, wanted to be a farmer, and did a climate change “ambassador” project when visiting the US for the first time as a high school exchange student in Alabama.

Why is your area of research important for society?
Decarbonizing the economy relies on various forms of policy support and intervention. It is important to understand the conditions under which we get effective policy. It is high stakes since we are attempting a policy-driven transformation of the global economy at high speed.

Where are you from?
I grew up in northern Germany near the Dutch border but have lived abroad for as long as I have lived in Germany. A steady westward trajectory has taken me to Belgium, the UK, the East Coast, and the West Coast. At this point, I feel very binational—I just became a dual citizen.

What is something you like to do outside of your academic work?
Having lived in California for the past nine years, my love of the outdoors has grown. I enjoy venturing out by foot or bike. More recently, I have gotten into backpacking. I am looking forward to hiking again in the White Mountains.

What’s your favorite book, movie, or piece of art?
I like many of David Hockney’s paintings. They often depict landscapes from England, where he grew up, and from California, where he lived later. Two very different kinds of natural beauty. I resonate with both, given where I lived big parts of my life.

What will you be doing as a BIGS Fellow?
I focus on two large projects. The first is on green industrial policy. The Inflation Reduction Act passed a year ago has substantially changed the environment for low-carbon investments in the US, raising some important research questions. For instance, what kinds of public institutions are effective in helping commercialize low-carbon technologies? The second project examines the drivers of firm behavior related to climate change, including corporate political behavior. For example, I study the role of long-term versus short-term investors in business support for decarbonization.

What sort of impact would you like to have as a BiGS Fellow?
I would like to develop new research collaborations at HBS and Harvard that carry beyond the fellowship time and make contributions to climate solutions. I am also exploring with the BiGS team new ways to share more of my work with practitioners and the public. I believe this is important given that society’s response to climate change is a big experiment. Collectively learning how to improve our response is essential, and research can play its part.

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