Environmental Economics


This course applies economic thinking to environmental issues – a particularly important application within Aotearoa New Zealand given our biologically based economy. It will explore what insights economic analysis can provide that help support sustainable inter-generational prosperity and provide participants with a toolkit to undertake their own analysis and draw their own conclusions.



With Melanie Craxton, Principal Advisor, Climate Change, Te Tai Ōhanga | The Treasury AND Geoff Simmons, Chief Economist, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment

Cost: This course is provided by the Government Economics Network (GEN) at a cost of $750 plus GST per person.

Date/Time: Course runs from 9am – 1pm with lunch following 1-2pm, 30 April and 1 May, then 7 and 8 May

About the trainers

Melanie Craxton
Principal Advisor, Climate Change, Te Tai Ōhanga | The Treasury

Melanie is a climate and energy economist with experience across the academic, public and private sectors. She currently serves as a Principal Advisor in climate change at the Treasury – drawing on her academic and private sector background to support the New Zealand Government as a public servant. Melanie has a PhD in Management Science & Engineering from Stanford University and a Masters in Economics from the University of Edinburgh. Her academic work has been at the intersection of energy and behavioural economics, optimisation and systems modelling to pursue problem driven research in the energy and climate policy space. Her teaching experience includes graduate-level university courses in Intermediate Microeconomics and Energy and Environmental Policy Analysis, alongside tutoring undergraduate microeconomics and econometrics.

Geoff Simmons
Chief Economist, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment

Geoff has over twenty years experience working as an economist on tricky public policy issues both here in Aotearoa New Zealand and the UK. He has written four books, two of which featured environmental economics. He has a BCom (Hons) from Auckland University, and has experience as a university tutor and adult community education teacher.

Target audience and assumed background

This course will be most helpful to policy advisors working on, or adjacent to, environmental issues.
Some basic knowledge of microeconomics is assumed (eg the GEN microeconomics course, a University Stage 1 paper or NCEA Level 3).


This course provides participants with a basic understanding of the key concepts in environmental economics and how they can be applied to public policy challenges.

Economics provides a powerful lens within which to consider and test “what is”, “what could be” and even “what should be”. Within the context of environmental economics defining these questions, let alone answering them, can be as much of an art as it is a science.
Participants will be exposed to (for better or worse) how different economists think about the environment, (more importantly) how they try to incorporate it in decision making, and the toolkit for policy interventions.

Participants will become familiar with policy interventions that are based on environmental economics, particularly those in a New Zealand context including the Quota Management System and Emissions Trading Scheme.

This is the first time we have run the course so we will be using an adaptive management framework to delivery. That means we will see how it is going and adjust accordingly. It also means we are particularly open to feedback to help improve the future delivery of this course.

Course objectives

On completion of this course, participants should:

  • Understand key environmental economics concepts and when to apply them;
  • Understand the main strengths and weaknesses of key decision-making frameworks in an environmental context;
  • Be familiar with environmental economics policy tools in the New Zealand context (especially the Emissions Trading Scheme and Quota Management System), including their strengths and weaknesses;
  • Be aware of the environmental economic toolkit; and
  • Be concerned for the future of human existence yet optimistic that we can get our sh*t together in time.

Session outline and delivery

The course will be delivered over four sessions from 9am – 2pm, afternoon tea will be provided each session.

Day 1 – Key Concepts

  • Strong vs Weak Sustainability
  • Alternative frameworks (e.g., Doughnut, Wellbeing)
  • Rationale for policy intervention
  • Managing common pool resources (e.g. Quota Management System)
  • Environmental examples of market failures and interventions
  • Willingness-to-pay and willingness-to-accept
  • Distributional impacts

Day 2 – Environmental Valuation

  • Benefit – cost analysis – an introduction
  • Discount rates
  • The importance of the counterfactual
  • Valuation methods (anthropocentric vs intrinsic, use vs non-use, market vs non-market)
  • Natural capital
  • Alternative approaches

Day 3 – Climate Deep Dive

  • Climate change as a global market failure
  • Climate-economic modelling approaches
  • Discount rates – round 2
  • Quantifying the externality – social cost of carbon
  • Economic policy instruments – price vs quantity
  • Emissions pricing vs complementary measures
  • International issues and context
  • Adaptation – options, considerations and costs

Day 4 – Bringing it Together

  • Scenario analysis
  • Where to next?
Cancellation policy

By submitting this Registration Form, you are confirming your availability to attend the GEN Training Course.

  1. Cancellation will not be accepted. The booking will be charged and invoiced with the full fee.
  2. If a registrant is unable to attend the course, the registration may be transferred to another suitable person to attend 2 days before start. All transfer requests must include the new attendee’s name, email address and telephone number and received in a written format and can be emailed to info@gen.org.nz.
  3. No refunds will be given by GEN for no-shows.

DECLARATION: I hereby certify that I am duly authorised to complete this registration form and have read and understand the terms and conditions as stipulated above.