Environmental Economist

Cities are centres of economic growth and play an important role in providing social and economic opportunities for urban communities. As urbanisation and associated demand increases, global societies are challenged by equitable and sustainable development. This is a particular challenge in a developing nation like South Africa. Environmental economics involves the study of the economic and financial value of the environment and conservation.

Environmental economists study the economic and financial valuation of natural resources from extraction, through value adding processes, use and waste returned to the environment. They investigate the implications of economic incentives for the environment and the use of natural resources in sustainable practices and environmental opportunities. They can conduct cost-benefit analysis of industrial activities and cost environmental impacts as well as develop cost-effective and sustainable recommendations based on research findings.

Environmental economists work mainly in an office environment and could also spend some time in client environments such as landfill sites, for example when consulting and advising stakeholders.

Skills

Environmental economists require a comprehensive knowledge of economic trends, patterns, practices and policies related to environmental concerns, and will also benefit from:

  • Strong mathematical and statistical skills
  • Extensive research competence 
  • Excellent analytical skills in micro, meso- and macroeconomic trends
  • Good verbal and written communication and presentation skills

Tasks

Research impacts of environmental conservation initiatives and projects

Monitor and analyse market and environmental trends.

Develop costing models and make recommendations for environmental policy and plans 

Advise and provide reports to policymakers, industry and other stakeholders

Studies

B.Com., B.Com. (Hons), M.Com. in Economics at all universities

B.Econ., B.Econ. (Hons), M.Econ. at RU and UWC

B.A., B.A. (Hons), M.A. in Politics, Philosophy and Economics at SU, UJ, and UNISA

Employers

National, provincial and local government.

Financial and banking institutions.

NGOs, community-based and development organisations and private consultancies.

Research institutions.

Related career paths