We spoke with NCI Secretariat member, eftec Director, and UKNEE (UK Network of Environmental Economists) Founder Ece Ozdemiroglu to learn more about UKNEE’s upcoming annual conference envecon 2014 and why you should attend.
What is envecon all about?
Envecon is the only Applied Environmental Economics conference in the UK. The idea behind it came because there were no events out there where you could talk about environmental economics research in the context of practical application, where researchers generating evidence and decision-makers using that evidence are brought together for open dialogue. The conference aims to be cross-sectoral, and we always have about one third of people from academia/research, one third from the private sector and consulting, and one third from the public sector. This unique networking opportunity at envecon is one of the main attractions – jobs, partnerships, connections, new ideas are all created or found at our event! The first envecon conference took place in 2003 in Scotland, since then it has become the leading (in fact it is the only) conference of its kind – anybody who is anybody working in environmental economics in the UK, and even Europe, is there.
Why should people come to envecon now? What is going on in environmental economics in relation to today’s issues?
Envecon 2014 will have a number of parallel sessions. One of the main ones will be on Payments for Ecosystem Services – these are talked about a lot, but there is less understanding of their role in practice. Defra will be talking about pilot schemes, and there will be papers on the attitudes of potential PES participants and experience from developing countries. I am sure the role of PES in the context of flooding will also be talked about, as there is an urgent need to think more about using this as a potential mitigation and funding mechanism. Other sessions will look at: energy and climate change, including how trading and CDM (Clean Development Mechanism) work; renewable energy in the UK, which is currently a hot debate; alternative transport systems, such as the electric car; and behavioural change. The main focus will be on telling stories around current topic areas, enabling cross-sector learning about challenges, barriers, opportunities and evidence requirements in relation to the real world.
How can events such as envecon help push the ‘applied’ part of environmental economics forward?
Envecon brings together those that provide evidence and those that need to use it to help them speak the same language. Those presenting papers are encouraged to talk specifically about the applied aspects of their work rather than the technical – which can excite the researcher but often scare the user! Likewise, those who are users of evidence are asked to forget about non-essential information – such as internal politics – and come ready to share their perspectives on gaps in evidence and the work’s potential uses in order to find a common ground and agenda with researchers. You can only do that in a meaningful way face-to-face- Envecon creates the space for that.
Why are you an environmental economist?
We have limited resources and unlimited ways of using them in relation to needs and wants. There are always trade-offs and costs and benefits to weigh in all decisions. I am very interested in how to help people make those decisions – I want them to be made using the best evidence possible. I don’t believe that there is only one right way, or one thing that is more important than another, which is why I am not personally a campaigner. I want to help provide good evidence, which means helping to produce better research in terms of both quality and accessibility.
How does what you do relate to the work of NCI?
The science partners behind NCI have an important role to play in this work of making research more accessible and shaping the research agenda to match policy and practice needs, specifically in relation to the natural capital debate. Of course, we do need research that is ahead of the curve too, but even this can be made more accessible and relevant. I see NCI as a tool to push this. NCI’s and UKNEE’s goals are very much aligned – multi-disciplinary, dialogue, and bridging are at the core of what we both do, and NCI allows UKNEE to bring its expertise to bear on natural capital.
envecon 2014: Applied Environmetnal Economics Conference is taking place on Friday 14th March at The Royal Society, London. For more information and to register visit: www.eftec.co.uk/envecon-current/blog