Thomas Sterner Sustainable Development - Environment, Energy and Society (2015-2016)


As professor of environmental economics in Gothenburg University, Thomas Sterner has, during the last two decades, built up the Unit for Environmental Economics with a staff of about a dozen PhDs and another dozen graduate students. The unit gives a unique PhD program in environmental economics with a large participation of graduate students from developing countries (financed by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Sida), masters and undergraduate programs and a large number of other research and teaching activities.

In 2012-2013 he was on sabbatical leave from Gothenburg and worked as Chief Economist at the Environmental Defense Fund. His main areas of work at the EDF were on instrument design for climate policy, catch shares in fisheries and other areas.

He has published over 100 articles in refereed journals (such as Nature and Science), authored or edited more than a dozen books and a large number of book chapters, official reports and journalistic articles.

The main focus of his work has been on environmental policy instruments with applications to energy and climate, industry, transport economics and finally resource management in developing countries. Many of these areas benefit from interdisciplinary collaboration with natural scientists, engineers, medical or other experts which he finds to be a challenging and exciting part of professional life.

Research interests

Thomas Sterner's main research interests lie in the design of policy instruments. Within this broad area he has focused on a number of applications:

Resource Management in Developing Countries

This is the main area of work for most of the students at EEU. Researchers at the unit have led for instance to work on the management of game parks and fishing in Lake Victoria. This work is mainly funded by Sida.

Economics of Energy Use and Climate Change

Thomas has earlier done a considerable amount of work on the elasticities of fuel demand. More recently he has looked at the efficiency of various other policy instruments in the area of transport, industry and energy. Some of this work has been done together with Christian Azar and colleagues at the dept. of Physical Resource Theory. Currently, Thomas is doing work on linking of permit schemes and on various aspects of discounting. This work is financed by FORMAS and MISTRA (the INDIGO programs).

Economics of Fisheries & Coastal Zone Management

Within a number of different ecological and geographic contexts, Thomas has worked on the design of different policy instruments to deal with problems related to overfishing, design of catch shares and the importance of genetic diversity among cod.

Comparative Efficiency of Economic Policy Instruments in various Sectors

This research focuses on empirical comparisons of the efficiency of policy instruments used in various sectors or countries. Examples include refunded emission payments for the reduction of NOx from industrial combustion.