GY473      Half Unit
Economic Development and the Environment

This information is for the 2019/20 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Charles Palmer STC.3.03 and Prof Benjamin Groom STC.4.20


This course is compulsory on the MPhil/PhD in Environmental Policy and Development and MSc in Environment and Development. This course is available on the MSc in Development Management, MSc in Development Studies, MSc in Environmental Economics and Climate Change and MSc in Environmental Policy and Regulation. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

The number of students that can be accommodated is limited. If the course is over-subscribed, places will be allocated at the Department’s discretion and a waiting list may be created. For further details, please contact your relevant Programme Coordinator, Louise Millar.


Students who have not completed a course in first year undergraduate level Economics might find it useful to audit EC100 Economics A.

Course content

With a focus on individuals and countries in the global south, the starting point for this course is recognition of the importance of resource use and the environment as building blocks for economic development. Using concepts and tools of environmental and development economics, the course aims to impart knowledge and develop critical thinking about a number of selected topics concerned with the interface between environment and development, at both the macro- and micro-scale. Central to this is an examination of the trade-offs and complementarities between environment and development.

Structured over 10 weeks, the course is divided into two distinct parts.

  • After introducing the course (week 1), Part I concentrates on the sustainability of the national and global economy, focusing on the role of managing wealth in shaping development prospects, whether green growth can deliver sustainability and the role of global trade in explaining resource use and environmental degradation, at the macro-scale. It concludes by emphasizing the overarching role of institutions in governing development paths and the way in which resources are managed.
  • What then follows in Part II is a consideration of a number of topics that explore different resources and areas of sustainability policy at the micro-scale. Specifically, the demand for and supply of key ecosystem services - energy, food, and water - have important implications for resource use and the environment. They also serve as building blocks for economic development in poorer countries. The impacts of current development trends on natural and man-made ecosystems, in particular, forest and urban ecosystems, are examined at the end of course along with their implications for public policy.


15 hours of lectures and 9 hours of seminars in the MT.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay in the MT.

There will be a piece of formative work – a ‘mock’ exam question – during MT to help students prepare for the take-home exam in week 0 of LT.  

Indicative reading

  • D Helm, Natural Capital, Yale University Press, 2015.
  • G Atkinson et al. (eds.), Handbook of Sustainable Development, Edward Elgar, 2014.
  • R Lopez and M Toman (eds.), Economic Development and Environmental Sustainability. Columbia University Press, 2006.
  • E Barbier, Natural resources and economic development, Cambridge University Press, 2005.
  • E Neumayer, Weak versus strong sustainability: exploring the limits of two opposing paradigms
  • Weak versus strong sustainability: exploring the limits of two opposing paradigms, Edward Elgar, 2013
  • K Hamilton and C Hepburn (eds) National Wealth, Oxford University Press, 2017.
  • W Adams, Green development: environment and sustainability in a developing world, 2009
  • A Banerjee and E Duflo, Poor economics: a radical rethinking of the way to fight global poverty, Public Affairs, 2011


Take-home assessment (100%) in the LT.

The take-home exam will be 8 hours duration in Lent Term Week 0.

Key facts

Department: Geography & Environment

Total students 2018/19: Unavailable

Average class size 2018/19: Unavailable

Controlled access 2018/19: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Specialist skills