Sustainable Development and Environmental Policy

Environmental management and policy are focused on understanding the complex factors related to pollution caused by human action, management and protection of natural resources, and sustainable development that takes the needs of people and the planet into account. Policy can be analyzed and influenced at the local, national, and international level. The study of environmental management and policy is relevant to development policy professionals in a wide variety of disciplines, but the concept of “sustainable development” is growing in importance for international development practitioners as they seek to find ways to grow economies and access to energy and other resources while preserving biodiversity and human health.


Issues and Aspects in Sustainable Development and Environmental Policy

In development, some key environmental issues that are studied and addressed by professionals include waste management, air and water pollution, ecosystem management, maintenance and protection of biodiversity and wildlife, safeguarding land and bodies of water, preservation of natural resources for future generations, mitigating impacts of extractive industries, and mitigating impacts of harmful human behaviors that contribute to air and water pollution. Professionals focused on environmental policy and sustainable development may be working in the field as researchers investigating problems and testing solutions, in advocacy organizations or nonprofits promoting engagement in environmental issues, or as policymakers in local, national, or international bodies who are tasked with the creation, implementation, and monitoring of public policies related to the environment.


MIDP Course Examples in Environmental Policy

The issues of environment, climate, and natural resources are integral to a comprehensive approach to development. For this reason, many of the courses in the MIDP program integrate environmental analysis and planning into the discussion. For example, Economic Growth and Development, Policy Analysis for Development, Institutional Design, and Public Finance all include some discussion of environment. In addition, thanks to the flexibility of the degree program, fellows interested in environment policy frequently choose electives based at the Nicholas School of the Environment.

Recently, the MIDP program developed a “mini” course (1 credit) focused on the critical role of land when it comes to human security.

Land Matters: Human Security and Sustainability  | Maureen Lempke (PUBPOL 789.02)   

Land is one of the most important assets for people and groups throughout the world.  It is a cornerstone of economic activity, is a source of livelihoods and security for the rural and urban poor, serves as the foundation for a wide range of cultural and social identities, provides the physical basis for human settlements, is the basis of terrestrial biodiversity and plays a role in climate regulation. However, population growth, urban expansion, over -exploitation of natural resources, skewed land ownership and corruption are resulting in an increasing entrenchment of poverty and vulnerability, environmental degradation, insecurity, conflict.Despite being central to a variety of sectoral issues that support survival, livelihoods peaceful development, economic growth, and sustainable resource use, land issues have often not received the attention they deserve in many development strategies across the globe. To remedy this “silo-ization,” this course will highlight the role of land tenure (the political, economic, social, and legal institutional structures that determine how individuals and groups secure access to land and all resources contained on it) and property rights  (the bundle of rights relating to the use, control, and transfer of land) on a variety of issues related to some of the most pressing global issues including: urbanization; climate change; food security; women, children and other groups rendered vulnerable; natural resource management, conflict and fragility and;  governance. Students will receive a series of frameworks and tools to better analyze and assess the land tenure and property rights landscape in a given context or scale and will learn about reforms, approaches and policies that are being implemented in the land sector around the world.


Featured Research Faculty

One of Sanford’s strongest research areas is environmental aspects of international development. Below are some key faculty who research and teach aspects of international environmental policy at Sanford:


Marc Jeuland

Marc Jeuland is an Associate Professor in the Sanford School of Public Policy, with a joint appointment in the Duke Global Health Institute. His research interests include nonmarket valuation, water and sanitation, environmental health, energy poverty and transitions, trans-boundary water resource planning and management, and the impacts and economics of climate change. Jeuland’s recent research includes work to understand the economic implications of climate change for water resources projects on transboundary river systems, a range of primary data collection projects related to analysis of adoption of environmental health improving technology, and analysis of the costs and benefits of environmental health interventions in developing countries. He has conducted multiple field experiments on issues such as: the role of water quality information in affecting household water and hygiene behaviors; the demand for, and impacts of cleaner cookstoves on household well-being; the long-term sustainability and effects of rural sanitation and water supply projects. He has also collected data on preferences for a range of environmental health improvements including cholera vaccines, household water treatment technologies and improved cookstoves. In the energy and development domain, he is currently working on several projects with the Energy Access Project at Duke, and is a co-founder of the Sustainable Energy Transitions Initiative (SETI), along with Professor Subhrendu Pattanayak and scholars from Chile, China and Ethiopia. His energy portfolio includes work related to evaluation of cleaner cooking interventions, measuring energy access and reliability, and reviews of the drivers and impacts literature related to energy. Jeuland has worked in the past with the World Bank, USAID, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, UNICEF, and many field-based NGOs and community-based implementing organizations. Prior to his graduate studies and work with the World Bank, Jeuland was a Peace Corps volunteer in Mali, West Africa, where he designed and monitored construction of a pilot wastewater treatment system and trained management personnel at the plant’s managing firm. In addition to his affilation with DCID, Jeuland is affiliated with the Duke Global Health Institute.


Robyn Meeks

Robyn Meeks is an Assistant Professor at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University and a faculty affiliate of the Duke University Energy Initiative and the Duke Center for International Development. Meeks is on the Faculty Advisory Committee of Duke University’s Energy Access Project. Her research is at the intersection of environmental and development economics with much of her work focusing on understanding individual and household responses to the introduction of various water and energy technologies, policies, and types of infrastructure in developing countries. Meeks has implemented field research in a number of countries, including India, Nepal, Kyrgyzstan, Kenya, Kazakhstan, and Peru.Her prior and on-going energy-related research addresses topics such as: the impacts of energy efficient technologies on household electricity consumption and local electricity reliability, benefits of smart meters, household perception of and response to non-linear electricity pricing, the impacts of grid versus off-grid electrification on enterprise development, and the impacts of alternative cooking fuels (such as biogas) on indicators of sustainable development. Meeks has a Ph.D. from Harvard University, a master’s degree from Yale University, and a bachelor’s degree from Brown University.


Subhrendu Pattanayak

Subhrendu K. Pattanayak is the Oak Professor of Environmental and Energy Policy at Duke University. He studies the causes and consequences of human behaviors related to the natural environment to help design and evaluate policy interventions in low-income tropical countries. His research is in three domains at the intersection of environment, development, health and energy: forest ecosystem services, environmental health (diarrhea, malaria, respiratory infections) and household energy transitions. He has focused on design of institutions and policies that are motivated by enormous inequities and a range of efficiency concerns (externalities, public goods and imperfect information and competition).  Pattanayak approaches these problems through systematic reviews of the literature (meta-analyses) and statistical modeling with high-resolution objective data collected in the field. He then uses those data to test hypotheses salient to policy manipulation, developed both from economic frameworks, stakeholder discussions and direct observations in the field. He employs empirical methods that exploit quasi-experimental variation (or experiments where feasible and appropriate), captured through household, community and institutional surveys. He typically matches these survey data with meso-scale secondary statistics and estimates econometric models to generate policy parameters. Pattanayak has collaborated closely with multi-lateral agencies, NGOs, governments, and local academics in Brazil, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the U.S.


Erika Weinthal

Weinthal is Professor of Environmental Sciences and Policy and specializes in global environmental politics and environmental security with a particular emphasis on water and energy. Current areas of research include (1) global environmental politics and governance, (2) environmental conflict and peacebuilding, (3) the political economy of the resource curse, and (4) climate change adaptation. Dr. Weinthal’s research spans multiple geographic regions, including the Soviet successor states, the Middle East, South Asia, East Africa, and North America. Dr. Weinthal is author of State Making and Environmental Cooperation: Linking Domestic Politics and International Politics in Central Asia (MIT Press 2002), which received the 2003 Chadwick Alger Prize and the 2003 Lynton Keith Caldwell Prize. She has co-authored Oil is not a Curse (Cambridge University Press 2010) and co-edited Water and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding (Earthscan Press, 2014) and The Oxford Handbook on Water Politics and Policy (Oxford University Press 2018). She is a member of the UNEP Expert Group on Conflict and Peacebuilding and a co-editor of Global Environmental Politics. In 2017 she was a recipient of the Women Peacebuilders for Water Award under the auspices of “Fondazione Milano per Expo 2015”.



Comments are closed.

Close Search Window