Dr Ben Groom (LSE) and Prof Mark Freeman (University of Loughborough) in collaboration with HM Treasury and the Grantham Research Institute organised a workshop entitled “Social Discounting in the UK” on the 17th of June, bringing together a diverse range of academic opinion to provide an up to date overview of the recent growing literature on social discounting.
This consultation formed a part of the Treasury’s preparation to refresh the technical guidance known as the Green Book to ensure it remains up to date and in tune with developments in academic research and the needs of public service. The aim of the Green Book is to ensure that public funds are spent on activities that provide the greatest benefits to society, and that they are spent in the most efficient way.
Presentations were made by contributors such as Prof Christian Gollier (University of Toulouse), Dr Antony Millner (LSE), Dr Cameron Hepburn (LSE/Oxford) and Prof David Maddison (University of Birmingham), in addition to Dr Groom and Prof Freeman.
Government economists from a number of Departments and other public bodies also attended including from HM Treasury, Transport, Environment, Health, Welfare and Pensions, Energy and Climate Change and Local Government.
Underlining the significance of the day, Dr Groom said: "In the last decade, and in particular post-Stern Review, the economic literature on social discounting and inter-generational equity has exploded. The workshop provided an important opportunity for those in charge of the current review of Treasury guidelines on Cost-Benefit Analysis to engage with academics at the forefront of this literature, several of whom work at the LSE".
He described the discussions as "excellent examples of how academics can engage closely with policy makers to ensure that decisions are made with full knowledge of recent academic thinking. The success of the workshop may even pave the way for closer relations between the Treasury and academics working on CBA in the future".
The Treasury officials responsible said that the presentations and roundtable discussions provided valuable input to the consultation and review process for the Refresh of the Green Book.
More details can be found at the Treasury Green Book website.
Ben Groom is Lecturer in Environment & Development Economics in the Department of Geography and Environment at LSE.