Research Themes

Economics of natural capital and ecosystem services

The overall goal of our research on the economics of ecosystem services and natural capital is to guide decisions and inform policies on ecosystems and prosperity. By providing insight into people’s preferences and their values for ecosystem services and natural capital, we aim to help design solutions such as decision-support tools for environmental management and business cases for nature-based solutions.

Our research is linked to different challenges, including food, land, marine and biodiversity systems. We work on food system impacts on ecosystems, from rural producing areas to global supply chains and urban consumers. Our work in marine systems spans valuation of coastal and ocean habitats, such as coral reefs, and sustainable financing. We have long-standing experience in the valuation and assessment of values of landscapes and ecosystems and analysing the trade-offs in sustainable development.

We take an interdisciplinary approach that builds on environmental, behavioural and ecological economics, striving for the development of actionable solutions. We have strong expertise in different methods for non-monetary and monetary valuation, including discrete choice experiments, contingent valuation, and meta-analysis. We integrate these values with hydrological models, ecological assessments, land-use models, societal cost-benefit analyses and multi-criteria assessments to inform sustainable policy making. We also have expertise in lab and field experiments that offer insights for the design of policy instruments to encourage sustainable behaviour.

We collaborate intensively with a range of national and international conservation organisations, such as the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and WWF, as well as national and international government agencies, such as UNEP. Our researchers engage with various communities such as The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and the Ecosystem Services Partnership (ESP).

Key staff members: Prof. Pieter van Beukering, Dr Mark Koetse, Dr Marije Schaafsma, Dr Luke Brander and Prof. Roy Brouwer.

Climate change economics

The aim of our research on climate change economics is to improve understanding of interactions between climate change and the economy to guide the design of climate change mitigation and adaptation policies. 

Examples are studies on the economic consequences of sea level rise, extreme heat, and natural disasters, such as flooding, which are used in cost-benefit analyses of adaptation strategies, including nature based solutions. Researchers also work with Integrated Assessment Models of climate change and the economy, such as FUND and CLIMRISK. These models estimate the Social Cost of Carbon for setting carbon taxes and evaluate the economic desirability of greenhouse gas mitigation policies at the international, national, and local scale, such as cities.

Applications range from macroeconomic assessments using Computable General Equilibrium Models to sectoral studies, such as for the manufacturing, agriculture, and insurance sectors, using econometric approaches and Partial Equilibrium Models. Microeconomic assessments focus on assessing climate change impacts and adaptation responses at the household and firm levels.  
The department also has a strong track record applying methods and insights from behavioural economics. Examples are surveys and economic experiments to study individual perceptions of natural disaster risks and to obtain insights into decision-making processes about protective investments, such as flood-proofing buildings and purchasing natural disaster insurance. This research informs policy instruments that help people better prepare for disasters, such as incentives from insurance, communication strategies, and nudges. 

Research projects are done for various societal organizations, which at the international level include the EU, OECD and the UN, as well as national governments and city policy makers at the national and local levels. The department has long standing collaborations with the financial sector, such as (re-)insurance companies and regulators. 

Key staff members: Prof. Wouter Botzen. Dr Fujin Zhou, Dr Peter Robinson, Prof. Richard Tol and Prof. Marjan Hofkes.

Economics of sustainable energy

The department’s research on renewable and sustainable energy covers the regulation of energy markets and technologies, and the design of policy instruments for the energy transition, such as carbon taxes.  Moreover, an important focus is the adoption of renewable and efficient energy technologies and behaviours by individual agents, such as households and farmers. The main aim of the research is to understand which policies can accelerate the transition to clean and sustainable energy systems - in the Netherlands, in Europe and in the Global South. 

The Environmental Economics department carries out projects with a focus on sustainable energy for various societal organizations, such as the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) at the national level or the EU at the international level. Examples for ongoing research are the Evaluation of RVO’s EnDev program, where the department, in collaboration with PricewaterhouseCoopers and SEO Amsterdam Economics, assesses the performance of selected EnDev programme activities. In the Horizon 2020 project NEWCOMERS – New Clean Energy Communities in a Changing European Energy System, the department analyses the potential of clean energy communities to stimulate energy conservation behaviour among community members. 

Applications range from macroeconomic assessments using Computable General Equilibrium Models to microeconomic studies using econometric approaches and agent based models of energy conservation behaviour. Moreover, behavioural economic studies focus on econometric analyses of survey data or experimental data collected using choice experiments, as well as laboratory and field experiments. The latter try to reveal individual behavioural biases that may impede the transition to clean energy systems – and test strategies to overcome them, for instance using information provision and social norm nudges. 

Key staff members: Dr Julia Blasch, Prof. Pieter van Beukering, Prof. Jeroen van den Bergh, Prof. Wouter Botzen, Prof. Richard Tol, Dr Onno Kuik, Dr Marije Schaafsma and Drs Frans Oosterhuis.