Cash prizes for leading lights designed to spur on eco-economics

Student economists providing solid financial arguments for sustainable solutions have been rewarded for the contribution they are making to the environment.

The Environment Agency presented its first Environmental Economics Masters Awards this week, handing out cash rewards and accolades for five innovative ideas and arguments produced by students studying for their masters degree.

While the number of environmental economists working in the UK is barely into triple figures at the moment, the EA is hoping the awards will highlight the discipline and draw more thinkers into the fold.

"These awards are about recognising and encouraging excellence in the field of environmental economics," said Ronan Palmer, the EA's chief economist.

"More and more, environmental economists will be relied on to find solutions to some of the most profound and challenging policy and social issues - they will play a critical role in managing change to a more sustainable world," he said.

"At the moment there are just 100 environmental economists in the UK - we hope these awards will encourage more people to engage in this emerging field, and pursue new levels of excellence.

"I am inspired by the dedication and level of excellence demonstrated by these students - I hope these awards give them renewed momentum to continue their valuable work."

Among the challenges the next generation of economists the EA highlighted the need to slow the rate of human consumption in the UK, reducing waste and carbon emissions, dealing with the massive growth of China and the huge expansion of housing in London's south-east.

Environmental Economics Masters Awards winners included

  • Dennis Morgan - £1,000 for his bold presentation on the need for reducing transport carbon emissions through a tougher package of user-pay measures, including direct energy pricing.

  • Will Murdoch - £500 for his Sustainable Flood Management assessment. A step away from traditional engineering solutions to flooding such as bridge building, this approach proposes natural water retention, river restoration and better land use planning as a more holistic solution to flood management, which provide more overall benefits to people.

  • Chris Sherrington - £250 for his innovative thesis on the importance of taking into account savings generated by innovation - such as text messaging - in regulating policies. He points out that these savings, like those made administering the Congestion Tax, must not be under-estimated or regulators will opt for less stringent regulations.

  • Ioanna Mouratiadou - £250 for her use of the technique to map stakeholder values to assist the negotiation of policy solutions, rather than using standard cost-benefit analysis. She applied this technique to water management in Greece, demonstrating how it could help find solutions that work for stakeholders and the environment.

  • Clive Marriott - £250 for his insightful analysis on the factors that lead to fruit and vegetables being air freighted all over the world at a huge environmental cost. In particular, peoples' desire to eat foods out of season is a key contributing factor to carbon emissions.

    By Sam Bond

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