Environmental Economics and Policy
The EEP option is designed for students from all backgrounds with an interest in environmental economics and public policy.
It provides students with an ability to employ economic reasoning and an understanding of the importance of institutions and policy processes to the analysis of a broad range of national and international policy issues such as biodiversity protection, climate change, poverty/environment linkages and the management of renewable resources; an awareness of the institutional and policy context in which environmental economic solutions might be applied; working knowledge of a wide range of economic tools and project and policy evaluation methods; and a sound but critical understanding of environmental economics as a discipline including knowledge of the different paradigms of analysis in the field.
Environmental economics is now an indispensable part of the education of anyone dealing with environmental issues. As one of the fastest growing areas of research and study, its influence over environmental policymaking and practice is already widely recognised. For example, it has become commonplace to speak about green taxes, carbon trading mechanisms, environmental valuation and incentive design for sustainable development.
What are the underlying causes of tropical deforestation? How rapidly should we take action to deal with global warming? What is the most efficient way to tackle air pollution? Are consumers willing to pay more for cleaner fuels and technologies? These are some of the questions which environmental economics attempts to address, pointing to the need to link individual choices and patterns of behaviour to the underlying structure of the economy and its institutions. A central insight is that environmental degradation, far from being an incidental consequence of economic activity, is in many ways a central feature of the way production and consumption is currently organised. Economists are uniquely well placed to comment on, and offer analysis of, these linkages. At the same time, economists argue that solutions require systematic changes to the economic incentives which drive human behaviour in these domains, bringing about the shifts in production and consumption that are necessary for sustainable development.
The demand for individuals with a good grounding in environmental economics continues to grow. There are promising career opportunities in government, industry, consultancy and research for people able to apply economic ideas, concepts and methodologies to environmental problem-solving and policymaking. In drawing up this new Option, we have been concerned to offer a course which will educate and inspire individuals interested in a career in these fields. It aims to provide a broad but integrated survey of environmental economics as a field of study and assist students in developing an ability to think about and analyse environmental problems in economically-literate terms. By the conclusion of the course, students will have a sound understanding of the economic and institutional context for environmental policymaking and will be able to apply economic concepts to understanding, and prescribing solutions for, a wide range of environmental problems.
The Option has been designed for students from all backgrounds with an interest in environmental economics and its applications. In terms of structure, it is divided into eleven thematic modules covering basic theory, tools and a range of applications:
Concepts: Initial lectures and small group sessions focus on the microeconomic foundations of environmental economics, looking at market processes and market failure, the theory of externalities and the concepts of public goods and open property resources.
Tools: The Option then goes on to examine the use of a range of economic tools and introduces students to some key techniques for data analysis. Topics covered in these modules include the design and implementation of market-based instruments, project appraisal and environmental valuation and the use of sustainable development indicators and green accounting. Students also receive training in quantitative and qualitative data analysis and in international environmental law.
Applications: The final set of teaching modules applies these economic concepts and tools to a series of environmental case studies in the fields of:
- global environmental change (including climate change, biodiversity conservation, biosecurity and transboundary air pollution)
- renewable resource management (such as managing fisheries and other living populations, renewable energy technologies and markets, and the role of innovation)
- agriculture (focusing on the environmental impact of agriculture, agri-environmental policy and the effect of trade liberalisation)
- development (covering issues of poverty and environment, tropical deforestation, human health and environment, GM and biotechnology, and the role of technical progress)
An essential feature of the Option, complementing, integrating and applying this lecture material, is small group project work. This is designed to develop a wide range of technical and analytical skills (project evaluation, data analysis, environmental valuation) and also organisational and communication skills (technical writing, oral presentations, team work). Finally, there is a series of specialist talks and seminars running through the term, in which invited speakers working in policymaking, industry and research give presentations on environmental economic and policy issues in the news.
There are excellent career opportunities for graduates who can combine training in environmental economics, good policy knowledge, proficiency in quantitative and qualitative methods and an ability to develop applications. Graduates from this Option are likely to find employment across a wide field, including environmental consultancy, advisory positions in commercial business and industry and careers as expert advisors in government, international institutions and environmental NGOs.