Tag Archives: #MeetTopEnvEcon

#MeetTopEnvEcon – Thomas Sterner

Thomas Sterner

Current position: Professor of environmental economics, University of Gothenburg

Year of birth:  1952


IDEAS profile:


Thomas Sterner’s CV reads like a book. In fact, it is a book, it has a table of contents,  it is 64 pages long, 40 of which are only listing his publications. He wrote over 100 publications in journals, 21 books or monographs, over a 100 articles in books or reports, and over 200 journalistic articles or speeches. He is extremely active on the policy side, both having participated at COP meetings and helped write an IPCC report, and is advising various governments around the world. In order to achieve this one has to not only show a huge commitment and dedication, but one must also be able to easily transition between fundamental research and talking to policy makers alike. This is clearly a very difficult task that few can manage to this degree.

Thomas comes across as a very relaxed, even casual person. And it is definitely fun and interesting to talk to him. So, if you meet him at the next conference, don’t worry about approaching him and asking him the questions about discounting or policy that you had always wanted to ask. Until then, I hope this interview gives you some further insights into his thoughts and research.

A new highlight, which I from now on hope to be able to add to these series, is a short video summary of the interview.

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#MeetTopEnvEcon – Lucas Bretschger

Lucas Bretschger

Current position: Professor of Economics at ETH Zurich

Year of birth:  1958


IDEAS profile:


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#MeetTopEnvEcon – Anil Markandya

Anil Markandya

Current position: Former Scientific Director/ Distinguished Ikerbasque Professor

Year of birth:  1945



I am very happy to present Anil Markandya in the Meet Top Environmental Economist series. He is currently the Distinguished Ikerbasque Professor and Scientific Director of the Basque Centre for Climate Change, Bilbao, in Spain (since 2008), was the Director of  Sustainable Indicators and Environmental Valuation and Applied Research at Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei, Milan, Italy (2005-2008); lead economist at the World Bank (2000-2004); and held various positions at top universities (University of Bath, London School of Economics, Harvard University, Berkeley, Princeton).

Anil Markandya is a researcher who has been working all of his life on the interaction between (mostly applied) environmental economics and policy advise. In terms of research he has published more than 290 scientific articles and several books, among which the `Blueprint for a Green Economy‘, co-authored with  Edward Barbier (and the first version with the late David Pearce), certainly stands out. In this book the authors were among the first to take a serious step towards understanding how economic growth and environmental constraints should be approached together to achieve a green economy. He has also been extremely influential on the policy side and has been an advisor or consultant for nearly all major world institutions (like the OECD, World Bank, IPCC, FAO, UN, European Environmental Agency) and countries. Anil Markandya has also been a lead author on influential IPCC reports (WG3, 3rd and 4th AR, and WG2 on 5th AR).

This is clearly an impressive record that one can only achieve with a level of dedication and effort which only a selected few have. Thus I am grateful that Anil Markandya took some time off for this interview and kindly answered these questions. I hope you enjoy this interview and if you do then do not hesitate to let me know!


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#MeetTopEnvEcon – Partha Dasgupta

Partha Dasgupta

Current position: Frank Ramsey Professor Emeritus of Economics, University of Cambridge

Year of birth: 1942



It is my great honor to present Partha Dasgupta in the #MeetTopEnvEcon series. I had previously met Partha only briefly at various conferences, and thus it was a pleasure to talk to him more extensively during the Climate Ethics and Climate Economics: Discounting the Future conference in Oxford this year. Once you discuss with him you easily understand why it was he who pioneered the nexus on environment, development and economics; his works with Geoffrey Heal on the optimal extraction of non-renewables are the foundation stone for any resource economist these days; together with the likes of Kenneth Arrow he urges governments to cease regarding GDP as a measure of prosperity to more holistic measures like inclusive wealth; and he is one of only a handful of economists who dares to address the problem of the optimal population size.

During the years, Partha published more than 270 scientific articles and books like An Inquiry into Well-Being and Destitution, Economic Theory and Exhaustible Resources, or the beautiful little Economics: A Very Short Introduction. For these contributions he was awarded a wealth of honors and awards, from several honorary doctor titles over to fellowships in the most prestigious societies, and was furthermore bestowed the knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II in 2002. These honors are clearly well-deserved.

One meets few people in life that quickly leave a lasting impression, and I feel that Partha is one of them. Not only because of his vast knowledge that he readily shares and his quick wit, but also because of his character. I have found him to be extremely kind, modest and down-to-earth, which tend to be character traits that too often disappear quickly in most people that reach Partha’s standing. Not so with Partha, which makes it that much more enjoyable to discuss with him.

Finally, I would like to deeply thank Partha for investing such an extensive amount of time on the interview. I hope the readers will appreciate the insights gained here.

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Cees Withagen

Current position
: Professor of Environmental Economics at VU University, Amsterdam

Year of birth: 1950


IDEAS profile:



I do not even remember where I met Cees for the first time. I think he has simply always been there. Trying to find an environmental economics conference without Cees is like trying to find a fox with rabies: while it is difficult, yet not impossible, it is not really desirable. This is simply because Cees is a warm and fun guy, he talks to PhD students just like he would talk to well-known professors, and he shows genuine interest in everyone’s work.

His big passion is mathematical modelling of environmental and resource problems in economics, and without doubt one can say that he is among the best out there. A word that may describe his style of research is most probably: thorough. I believe his second big passion is Tango, but there you have to ask him for the details…

His recent work is mostly about the Green Paradox, and together with Rick van der Ploeg  they are the currently most ambitious tag team on this topic.

Cees is going into retirement in 2016. But be warned: retirement for an academic like Cees means no teaching obligations and the possibility of being back to full time research. This is the period in life where academics become even more productive, and I thus expect to see Cees at more conferences and to publish more papers than ever before!

Reyer Gerlagh

Current position
: Professor of Environmental Economics at Tilburg University

Year of birth: 1969


IDEAS profile:


In 1999 Reyer Gerlagh received his PhD in economics. His research won him a prestigious scholarship, the “Vernieuwingsimpuls”, a grant of € 650,000 by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). He visited Oslo, January-June 2006, by invitation from the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters to work at the Centre of Advanced Studies on the interaction between environmental policy and technology. From 2006 to 2009, he held a chair in Environmental Economics at Economics, School of Social Sciences, University of Manchester, UK. Reyer Gerlagh is now Professor at Tilburg University, associate editor of ERE and Energy Economics, and coordinating lead author of the fifth assessment report of the IPCC, WG III. He has published many articles on climate change policy, technological change, sustainability, natural resources, and the green paradox.

I got to know Reyer several years ago at a climate change conference in Paris. There were several speakers, but the most interesting one was certainly Reyer. He leaves the impression that he knows his stuff and that he asks the right questions. He can be tough on those that are presenting at conferences, not asking questions in the roundabout way like many others do but pointing straight out at the problems in the analysis that he sees. Reyer calls himself a math nerd – and the medals he collected from competitions in national and international maths and physics competition certainly show that. But he is more than that – I would think of him more as someone who also understands what are the important questions in environmental economics and has the tools to answer them.

I am starting a new interview series on this blog called Meet Top Environmental Economists, #MeetTopEnvEcon. The idea is to introduce some of the most influential economists that have significantly contributed to environmental economics. I am not going to make a difference here between those working on ecological economics, or urban environmental economics, or similar, but I will simply look at all those economists who have spent a significant part of their research agenda on using economic tools to research issues related to the environment.

From this you, the reader, should get away a couple of points: What motivated this researcher to work on this topic? What does (s)he view as the major contributions? Where should the literature go from here? The idea is to introduce these top researchers also from a more personal side, a side that one seldomly gets to know if one only reads their articles. In addition, the references accumulated here will help to develop a smaller living library that should aid researchers.

In terms of contributors there is no particular order, first come first served really. I will not necessarily follow particular rankings, like those from ideas, since for example policy-oriented researchers often have a difficult time to enter those rankings. If you are not happy with the selections, or you would like to see others ranked, let me know!

The first favourite environmental economist is Rick van der Ploeg. I got to know Rick when he taught the macroeconomics course for us MSc Economics students at the London School of Economics in early 2003. This was a really enjoyable course: while he was sticking to the textbook, at the same time his mind was racing ahead and he provided us with anecdotes about his time as a politician, about when economics matters for public finance and education, and he always helped us to see where exactly the elephant in the room was standing. Rick is someone who knows the theory by heart and has enough experience in the public sector to actually know where it matters. His recent work is mostly about optimal carbon taxes, the green paradox, and the optimal switch from non-renewable to renewable resources.

Rick van der Ploeg

Current position
: Professor of Economics at the University of Oxford

Year of birth: 1956


IDEAS profile:

Rick van der Ploeg is Professor of Economics at the University of Oxford and Research Director of the Centre for the Analysis of Resource Rich Economies (OxCarre). Formerly, he was Professor of Economics at the European University Institute, Florence and he is affiliated with the VU University of Amsterdam, and the Tinbergen Institute.

He is a research fellow in international macroeconomics at the Centre for Economic Policy Research.  He directs the public sector economics programme, and is Chair of the Scientific Council of CESifo.

He is former Chief Financial Spokesperson in the Dutch Parliament, State Secretary of Education, Science and Culture of the Netherlands and Elected Member of the Unesco World Heritage Committee, and has been on the board of various commercial and non-profit organisations. Previous academic experience includes Cambridge, LSE, Tilburg and Amsterdam.

He has published extensively on macroeconomics, public finance, political economy and resource economics, and also has an interest in the economics of culture. Publications include Foundations of Modern Macroeconomics with B.J. Heijdra (OUP, 2002), the edited Handbook of International Macroeconomics, and several other books.

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