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2012-08-07 | News

Sterner at the Resource 2012 in Oxford: Property rights are key for resource efficiency

When choosing policy instruments to manage our planet´s resources we need to think about both efficiency and fairness, said Professor Thomas Sterner when he was invited as Visiting Chief Economist of the Environmental Defense Fund to address the prestigious global conference Resource 2012 in Oxford. Other speakers included David Attenborough, Bill Clinton, Amartya Sen and Hans Rosling.

The objective of the conference Resource 2012, held in Oxford 12-13 July, was to reframe the global debate about sustainability and growth away from the polarized view that economic growth and commercial success are incompatible.

Speaking at the forum´s session on ”Disruptive Innovation” Thomas Sterner (left) said that innovations are not just about technology. To generate resource efficiency there is also a need for policy innovation:

“The mother of all policy instruments is property rights, and a clarification of property rights is an important innovation. We have some interesting examples from the area of fishery, where we have found that this one change, a clarification of property rights, is a way of untying conflicts. When the fishermen know the stock is theirs you get a different dialogue between stakeholders. There are similar lessons on land, for rain forests, land and other resources, said Sterner.

Sterner also called for high carbon and gasoline tax as one of the very best environmental policies to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollution from the transportation sector.

“High carbon taxes have proved to be effective in Nordic countries. Our research findings also show that carbon and gasoline taxes are strongly progressive in most developing countries, said Sterner and explained that this is an important fairness aspect as it means that a carbon tax does not hurt the poor disproportionally, which is sometimes claimed by oil lobbyists.

See Thomas Sterner discussing ”Disruptive Innovation”: (Sterner´s comments start after 20 minutes)

Resource 2012 is a joint initiative hosted by Oxford University and its Smith School of Enterprise and Environment in co-operation with The Rothschild Foundation. The forum hopes to spark change by presenting a compelling financial case for solving these issues, exploring viable, commercial and proven solutions towards a sustainable future.

Other speakers of Resource 2012 included Sir David Attenborough, Britain's best-known natural history film-maker, Bill Clinton, former President of the United States, Amartya Sen, Nobel prize-winning Economist, and Hans Rosling, professor of international health and co-founder of Gapminder Foundation, among others. See also:
Re|Source 2012:
University of Oxford news item: “Bill Clinton at Oxford forum: how to manage scarcity of resources”: l

Thomas Sterner is Visiting Chief Economist at the Environmental Defense Fund in New York. He is also Chair of the EfD Research Committee and a professor of environmental economics at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden where he has built up the Unit for Environmental Economics. EEU. The EEU is one of the more important European centres for environmental economics and gives a unique PhD program in climate economics with many graduate students from developing countries.

Sterner sits on numerous boards and is a past president for the European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, (EAERE). Currently Professor Sterner is also a Coordinating Lead Author of IPCC AR5 WGIII and an associate editor of the journal Environmental and Resource Economics.

By Karin Backteman