Newsletter No 3 september 2009

EAERE Conference 2009, Amsterdam

An overview by Marije Schaafsma

EE_EAEREFrom June 25th-27t, the VU University Amsterdam hosted the annual conference of the European Association of Environment and Resource Economists (EAERE). It was up to the Faculty of Economics and Business Administration and the Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM) to match with last year’s well organized conference in Gothenburg. By attracting over 750 participants and offering a platform to discuss recent developments in a wide variety of themes and methods, the conference was very successful.

IVM’s Roy Brouwer organized a pre-conference on Water Economics on the day before the main conference started, attracting over 200 participants. The pre-conference covered topics on hydro-economic modelling, water scarcity and conflict studies, economic valuation, demand for water and related price mechanisms. 

After the official opening, Maria van der Hoeven, the Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs, was invited to the floor. Being a politician and not an economist, she drew the attention of the (foreign) researchers by claiming that the Dutch policy on energy markets should serve as an example for a common European policy.       

Rick van der Ploeg had the honour to provide the David Pearce Lecture. In his enthusiastic speech, he discussed the different crises currently prevailing in the world: the climate-, food-, water- and energy crises. Van der Ploeg admired the well-known Stern report on the economics of climate change, but also noted that the underlying assumptions require more research. In addition, he argued that now Europe’s role as a leading economy is over, interesting developments are taking place in China, spreading its economic influence to other continents like Africa.  

On the second day of the conference, Worldbank’s Kirk Hamilton discussed the concepts of “Genuine Savings”, social wellbeing and sustainable development. He highlighted the importance of immaterial goods, like proper law systems, institutions, education and – mainly in developing countries – transfers from abroad to support economic growth in the long term.   

Potentially the most admired and most innovative lecturer was keynote speaker Scott Taylor, professor in Economics on the University of Calgary. His current research covers the causes and circumstances triggering past environmental crises, for example the ecological decay on Easter Island, such that upcoming future crises can be identified. For this purpose, positive feedback-mechanisms were introduced into the Gordon-Schaefer model. Crises are caused by exceeding threshold levels and ‘tipping points’ in the environment in combination with weak environmental policy. Scott Taylor noted that climate change tends to become an environmental crisis and that it is therefore time to introduce constructive policies.   

Besides the main speakers, over 600 presentations on a broad range of topics could be attended in a series of parallel sessions. Main themes were water, energy, biodiversity, climate, policy instruments etc.. Although the extensive program offered the opportunity for many researchers to present and discuss their results, some participants were confused by the overwhelming amount of interesting sessions offered. Overall the quality of the presentations was good.   
Of course sufficient opportunities were available at the conference for social activities. During lunches, drinks, a canal cruise through Amsterdam and the conference dinner in Krasnapolsky, the researchers looked for old friends, new employers and project partners. In the mean time, discussions took place about the importance of the upcoming climate negotiations in Copenhagen, the use of Bayesian methods for experimental economics, the contradictions between men and women in valuing risk and the environment, and mathematical derivations of multiple discount factors. Overall, the conference offered enough inspiration for everyone for future research and hopefully to participate next year at the World Congress of Environmental and Resource Economics 2010 in Montreal. 
Marije Schaafsma works at the Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM) at VU University.  Information regarding the EAERE congress 2009 can be found on the website: