Shaping energy and environmental policy

All economic wealth ultimately derives from the environment.

For the purposes of energy and environmental decision-making, an important challenge is to understand the links between the economy and the environment.

UK environmental policy covers a raft of issues, from agricultural and energy externalities to floods and landfill. Formulating policy is a scientifically complicated, interdisciplinary endeavour.

Our energy policy is similarly complex, given concerns both about the environment, the economy and security of the nation’s energy supplies. Our research and expertise contributes to energy and environmental policy debates: For example, we have drawn awareness to the fact that along with stocks of natural capital (such as fish and oil), we also have stocks of waste (such as landfill and nuclear waste) that need to be included in any analysis of sustainable development.

If the UK is to meet its challenging climate change targets, there is a need for greater understanding of the relationship between government expenditure programmes and carbon emission levels. University of Birmingham academics have been working with Scottish Parliamentary committees to further develop the Scottish Government’s Carbon Assessment of Government Spending to improve the quality of parliamentary scrutiny in relation to climate change.

In the West Midlands, there are hundreds of historical landfill sites and these represent enduring sources of disamenity, inasmuch as they exert a depressing effect on house prices.

Analysis of house price differentials makes it possible to derive an estimate of the costs of landfill disposal, which is an important component of any rational system of dealing with waste.

Weighing up the economic costs and benefits also applies to the problem of flooding: Research carried out at Birmingham includes evaluating the advantages of flood prevention by examining the impact on house prices in the vicinity of flood relief infrastructure. The hope is that this work will provide a better estimate of the benefits of flood relief projects than we have at present.