Environmental Policy Research Unit (EPRU)

The Environmental Policy Research Unit (EPRU) at the University of Cape Town’s School of Economics is a leading institution in the field of resource economics in the Global South. It is the home of academics and post graduate students who work in collaboration to understand the environmental and natural resource issues. The primary goal is to produce cutting edge, policy-relevant research which promotes sustainable development and poverty reduction in Southern Africa.

The unit was established in 2007 to promote sustainable development and poverty reduction in the region, and is one of nine centers or ‘nodes’ in the world which make up the Swedish Environment for Development (EfD) Initiative, based at the University of Gothenburg’s Environmental Economics Unit.

Informing policy with solid scientific research is central to the EPRU’s mandate, since governments of developing countries like South Africa face the challenge of marrying together their sustainable growth goals with wise management of natural resources. Policy makers need to understand that society is dependent on the environment for material production, and that a healthy environment is the basis of sustainable growth. Use the environment well, and countries can drive development and address poverty effectively.

However there is often a gap between the scientific research which upholds these ideas, and the policymakers themselves. Work done by the EPRU and its fellow centers tries to bridge this gap.

To achieve its aims, the EPRU seeks to enhance the effectiveness of environmental policy making by adopting a threefold strategy of research, teaching and policy consultation. The main areas of research currently focus on ecosystems management, climate change adaptation and mitigation, biodiversity and natural resource management (e.g. fisheries), and energy and water efficiency.

This work involves the valuation of ecosystem services, experimental behavioural economics, applied econometrics and ecological-economic modelling.

EPRU has worked successfully with a number of local and national stakeholders, including the South African National Parks in the wildlife sector, the Department of Water Affairs in the water sector, the Department of Environmental Affairs on marine and coastal management, and the City of Cape Town on air quality management and energy savings.

The center’s directorship is on a rotating basis amongst its senior fellows, with Prof. Martine Visser currently holding the position.

Read more about the EPRU team here.



1. Training

EPRU research fellows are involved in teaching environmental and resource economics courses in the School of Economics at the University of Cape Town. The center also has the capacity to run short training programmes for policy makers and civil servants. Such courses inform decision makers of the relevant environmental economic tools available to improve policy making and analysis.

2. Research

EPRU strives to produce and disseminate policy-relevant research of a high academic quality on current environmental economic issues in South Africa. A core activity of the EfD initiative is international research collaboration on poverty-environment issues and EPRU’s research agenda is thus driven in part by EfD partnership projects.

3. Policy consulting

EPRU’s main objectives, in terms of policy interaction, are to (i) be a resource where high quality research and economic opinion on environmental policy issues can be sought by policy-makers, and (ii) be a resource which engages with policy-makers in respect of agenda setting, policy design, formulation and implementation. EPRU’s work caters to the demands of domestic institutions as well as international organisations. EPRU research fellows have extensive links with policy makers and practitioners in South Africa and have worked with various government units. Information is disseminated in the form of policy briefs and research papers.

Contact information

University of Cape Town
School of Economics, Environmental-Economics Policy Research Unit (EPRU)
Rondebosch 7701, Cape Town
South Africa