How can economists be part of the solution to the climate and biodiversity crises?

May 10, 2024

On 16 May, the symposium "Climate and Biodiversity Crises: What is the Role of Economics?" will take place at Wageningen University and Research. Professor Francisco Alpizar Rodriguez, chair of the Environmental and Natural Resource Economics group, curated the lineup. ‘We economists bear significant responsibility for creating the incentive structure that has brought the world to the brink of collapse, so we must be part of the solution.’

‘One of the issues is our addiction to GDP, equating economic growth with progress. After World War II, societies required this growth focus to get out of the misery. However, we now increasingly recognise the scarcity of resources and rapid biodiversity loss. The atmosphere's capacity to absorb human-generated emissions is also finite. However, banks, companies, and everyone else still gauge themselves by GDP. This GDP-centric narrative is detrimental,’ Alpizar remarks.

There are alternative approaches, he notes. ‘The first step is to measure not only gains but also losses. Consider alternative wealth metrics like the Inclusive Wealth Index.’ This index totals a country's natural, human, social, and physical capital, which also includes manufactured and financial capital. One of its staunchest advocates, Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta from the University of Cambrigde, will speak at the symposium.


  1. Prof. Thomas Sterner, University of Gothenburg
  2. Prof. Dale Whittington, University of North Carolina & University of Manchester
  3. Prof. Åsa Löfgren, University of Gothenburg
  4. Prof. Carolyn Fischer, Research Manager Sustainability and Infrastructure, The World Bank

Due to illness, Prof. Sir Partha Dasgupta will unfortunately be unable to attend the symposium.

More information and registration

Alternative perspectives on economics

The programme on 16th May revolves around this alternative perspective on the role economics can play in addressing the biodiversity and climate crises. ‘The primary question is: what changes are needed in economics to foster truly relevant biodiversity and climate policies? Alongside Dasgupta, four other international leading scientists (see box) will shed light on the theme of economics and policy as driving forces in tackling climate and biodiversity issues. Subsequently, they will participate in panel discussions titled "Social Sciences in the Face of Environmental Crises" and "Backlashes in Contemporary Environmental Policies."

Alpizar illustrates the impact of opposing forces in society using recent farmer protests against restrictions on a particular pesticide. ‘This discontent runs deep. Clearly, something is going wrong in legislation and policy-making. The question is how to implement climate and biodiversity-positive policies without exacerbating societal polarisation.’ Therefore, he hopes the conference will attract not only economists, but also sociologists, political scientists and technologists. ‘Transcending disciplinary boundaries and fostering interdisciplinary discussions is crucial for successful policy design.’

Political, sociological and technological aspects of solutions

As the organiser of the meeting, Alpizar anticipates discussions on topics like implementing carbon pricing. ‘An economist may advocate for pricing carbon emissions. However, the execution is challenging. Changing taxes entails political and sociological dimensions. Some people will be more affected than others. Moreover, there's a technological aspect. Where and how do we implement this measure, and how do we gauge progress? We require a multidisciplinary approach for truly effective carbon pricing and to prevent further polarisation.’