GY473      Half Unit
Economic Development and the Environment

This information is for the 2023/24 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Charles Palmer CKK 4.11


This course is compulsory on the MPhil/PhD in Environmental Policy and Development, MSc in Environment and Development and MSc in Environmental Policy, Technology and Health (Environment and Development) (LSE and Peking University). This course is available on the MSc in Development Management, MSc in Development Management (LSE and Sciences Po), MSc in Development Studies, MSc in Environmental Economics and Climate Change, MSc in Environmental Policy and Regulation, MSc in Environmental Policy, Technology and Health (Environmental Economics and Climate Change) (LSE and Peking University), MSc in Environmental Policy, Technology and Health (Environmental Policy and Regulation) (LSE and Peking University) and MSc in Geographic Data Science. 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.


Students who have not completed a course in first year undergraduate level Economics might find it useful to audit EC1A5 Microeconomics I

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.


In the Department of Geography and Environment, teaching will be delivered through a combination of seminars, pre-recorded lectures, live online lectures and other supplementary interactive live activities.

This course is delivered through a combination of seminars and lectures in Autumn Term.

This course includes a reading week in Week 6 of Autumn Term. 

Formative coursework

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

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

Indicative reading

  • 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, Economics for a fragile planet, Cambridge University Press, 2022.
  • 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%).

There will be an online assessment ('exam'). Timing TBC.

Student performance results

(2019/20 - 2021/22 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 26.4
Merit 46.9
Pass 25.3
Fail 1.4

Key facts

Department: Geography and Environment

Total students 2022/23: 102

Average class size 2022/23: 26

Controlled access 2022/23: Yes

Lecture capture used 2022/23: Yes (MT)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

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