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Making a difference — how environmental economists can influence the policy process — a case study of David W Pearce

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  • Frank Convery

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Abstract

Can environmental economists influence policy? If so, how? This paper addresses these two questions using the late David Pearce’s career as a case study. Influence can be exercised, but Pearce’s career shows that certain conditions must be met. The first is desire: he wanted to influence policy, and directed a high proportion of his efforts to doing so. He focused particular attention on the power centres of his time — the OECD, World Bank, European Commission, UN, UK government; his influence was aided by his status and location as a professor in a prestige university (UCL) in a major global city (London). His messages were consistent and clear: theory is important, and can be used to frame most environmental challenges as regards both explanation and solution; externalities can be valued; assessing benefits and costs of options is important; market signals (taxes etc) and incentives generally are powerful shapers of behaviour; stock of capital (human, built, natural) is a key measure of sustainability. He communicated simply and clearly, in words and phrases that Ministers for Finance and journalists could understand. All of the broadsheet newspapers in England (Financial Times, Guardian, Independent, Telegraph, Times) were grist to Pearce’s mill of advocacy for environmental economics. He provided the Blueprint books that could be read on a commute and summaries to the media that they could fit into a 1,000 word piece. He didn’t seek out, but neither did he shirk controversy. He worked with various interest groups and politicians, but never to the point were he was co-opted. He initiated and directed the MSc in Environmental and Resource Economics that created an ever-widening and influential pool of advocates for his ideas. Finally, he achieved a prodigious academic output that ensures a sort of immortality, and provided the intellectual ballast the enabled his policy influence. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2007

Suggested Citation

  • Frank Convery, 2007. "Making a difference — how environmental economists can influence the policy process — a case study of David W Pearce," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 37(1), pages 7-32, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:enreec:v:37:y:2007:i:1:p:7-32
    DOI: 10.1007/s10640-007-9116-5
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Karl-Göran Mäler, 2007. "Wealth and sustainable development: the role of David Pearce," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 37(1), pages 63-75, May.
    2. David Pearce, 1998. "Environmental Appraisal and Environmental Policy in the European Union," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 11(3), pages 489-501, April.
    3. Edward Barbier, 2007. "Frontiers and sustainable economic development," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 37(1), pages 271-295, May.
    4. Peter A. Diamond & Jerry A. Hausman, 1994. "Contingent Valuation: Is Some Number Better than No Number?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 8(4), pages 45-64, Fall.
    5. Pearce, David W. & Atkinson, Giles D., 1993. "Capital theory and the measurement of sustainable development: an indicator of "weak" sustainability," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(2), pages 103-108, October.
    6. Alistair Ulph & David Ulph, 2007. "Climate change—environmental and technology policies in a strategic context," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 37(1), pages 159-180, May.
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