We employ theories and evidence to improve understanding of major sustainability challenges.
Those include mitigation of and adaptation to climate change, as well as management of energy, water, forests, and most generally ecosystem services and their connections to sustainable development, considering all of the SDGs and their many dimensions of welfare for humans and nature. Our program is informed by interactions with policy makers and other practitioners on the ground in order to generate research, training, and outreach that is applied and interdisciplinary. We have collaborated closely with multi-lateral agencies, NGOs, governments, and local academics in numerous countries.
The use of solid fuels for cooking is a major contributor to mortality, disease burden, and environmental harm in many countries. To tackle the problem, India expanded access to a cleaner and often subsidized alternative, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), but solid fuels reliance has persisted. Aiming to inform LPG subsidy policy, we conducted a field experiment with low-income households in rural India to examine how LPG prices affect demand. Households (n = 580) were randomized to four groups: a control group that received no discount beyond the existing subsidy and three treatment groups that received discount vouchers worth US$1.7, US$3.4, and US$5.1 per cylinder refill. Purchases of LPG cylinders increased significantly with the size of the discounts. The findings indicate that higher LPG subsidy amounts will be necessary to achieve near exclusive use of this cleaner cooking fuel among low-income Indian households, in support of health and environmental goals.
Jeuland, M., et al. “A randomized trial of price subsidies for liquefied petroleum cooking gas among low-income households in rural India.” World Development Perspectives, vol. 30, June 2023. Scopus, doi:10.1016/j.wdp.2023.100490.
We study the response of residential water demand to nonlinear prices by exploiting a natural experiment arising from a water pricing reform in a major Chinese city. The reform introduced an unconventional Increasing Block Tariff featuring prices set according to annual cumulative consumption and a bimonthly billing cycle. Analyzing data from a household survey and administrative water bills, we detect a small effect on low-use households but find large water savings among high-use households. Moreover, we find strong evidence that high-use households respond to future price while current price remains fixed, and that the small share of households who appear myopic do not respond to dynamic incentives.
Li, L., & Jeuland, M. (2023). Household water savings and response to dynamic incentives under nonlinear pricing. Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, 119. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jeem.2023.102811
Universal clean cooking is a key target under Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7, with implications for several other SDGs, such as good health, gender equality and climate. Yet, 2.4 billion people globally still lack access to clean cooking. The situation is especially dire in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), where only 17% use clean options. We develop OnStove, an open-source spatial tool comparing the relative potential of different cookstoves on the basis of their costs and benefits, and apply it to SSA. Our results suggest a severe market failure as the currently most used solution, traditional biomass, produces the lowest social net-benefits nearly everywhere in SSA. Correcting this failure, which stems from multiple market and behavioural obstacles, would deliver significant health, time and emission benefits but requires identification and promotion of policies to transform cooking energy use. Spatial mapping offers a more nuanced understanding of the costs needed to deliver cleaner cooking transitions than was previously possible, which is useful for improved targeting of intervention strategies.
Khavari, B., Ramirez, C., Jeuland, M., & Fuso Nerini, F. (2023). A geospatial approach to understanding clean cooking challenges in sub-Saharan Africa. Nature Sustainability, 6(4), 447–457. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-022-01039-8
The energy mix in Nepal is currently dominated by the traditional and inefficient use of biomass (66.54%) and fossil fuels (27.24%), and energy poverty remains extremely high. This paper reviews relevant literature to provide an overview of the current renewable energy status and energy mix in Nepal, and to discuss prospects for the country to achieve a sustainable energy transition. Nepal-specific papers from peer-reviewed sources and other agency and academic reports were included insofar as these discussed renewable energy and provided recommendations for policy-making on sustainable energy and related development goals. Despite the rapidly falling cost of solar photovoltaic, the share of modern renewable energy in Nepal is currently less than 3%. On this basis, and given the country's sustainable energy goals, we conclude that favorable and aggressive policies and strategies are needed to support adoption of clean energy in Nepal, comprised of a high share of solar generation equipped with battery storage, and balanced with storage such as off-river pumped hydropower technology.
Lohani, S. P., Gurung, P., Gautam, B., Kafle, U., Fulford, D., & Jeuland, M. (2023). Current status, prospects, and implications of renewable energy for achieving sustainable development goals in Nepal. Sustainable Development, 31(1), 572–585. https://doi.org/10.1002/sd.2392
Industrialized states find it increasingly difficult to insulate themselves from spillovers associated with underdevelopment abroad. In a globalizing world many concerns caused or enhanced by underdevelopment-migration, political instability, violence, refugee flows, trafficking in persons and illicit substances, spread of disease, lawlessness and its ability to provide havens for terrorists and criminals, pollution, and others-are not confined within national borders. Industrialized states, unable to protect themselves from the impact of events in developing countries, have responded with a strategy of targeted development: pursuing development abroad when and where it serves their own self-interest. This book examines the emergence of targeted development as an important foreign policy goal of wealthy states. Through historical comparisons, the development of a formal model, and empirical analysis of foreign aid, trade agreements, and climate finance, the book demonstrates that targeted development has emerged as an important component of foreign policy across multiple issue areas linking industrialized and developing countries. These findings show a rising importance for development in foreign policy and have implications for understanding which countries are likely to be left behind by globalization, the role of international institutions in promoting development, and the study of effectiveness for development policies.
Bermeo, S. B. (2018). Targeted development: Industrialized country strategy in a globalizing world (pp. 1–184). https://doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780190851828.001.0001
High electricity losses due to unbilled consumption are an impediment to reliable and affordable electricity provision in developing countries. We study the impacts of an infrastructure intervention that made illegal electricity connections physically more difficult in Karachi, Pakistan. The installation of aerial bundled cables (ABCs) reduced non-technical losses and increased revenue recovery, by increasing both the number of formal utility customers and the billed consumption among formal customers. Consumer surplus changes from ABCs depend on the cost of prior illegal grid connections and whether electricity quality improves. ABCs reduced the utility's annual CO2 emissions, via reductions in electricity generation.
Ahmad, Husnain Fateh and Ali, Ayesha and Meeks, Robyn and Wang, Zhenxuan and Younas, Javed, The Economic and Environmental Effects of Infrastructure Improvements: Evidence from Pakistan's Electricity Sector (February 1, 2023).
Hundreds of millions of households depend on electricity grid connections providing low quality and unreliable services. Understanding the impacts of and consumer response to electricity quality improvements is important for development and the environment. We investigate this in the Kyrgyz Republic through randomized improvements in the grid, which can improve electricity service quality. Treated households experience significantly fewer voltage fluctuations per day, an indicator of improved electricity quality post-intervention. Treated households’ billed consumption of electricity services increased during peak months post-intervention, with increases in consumption of 4% and 18% for homeowners and renters, respectively. Consistent with this, treated households, particularly renters, significantly increased ownership of electric heaters. Treated households invested more in energy efficiency, potentially mitigating their electricity bill increases post-intervention.
Meeks, R. C., Omuraliev, A., Isaev, R., & Wang, Z. (2023). Impacts of electricity quality improvements: Experimental evidence on infrastructure investments. Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, 102838.
For over a century, starting with the work of Alfred Marshall (and also in resource economics), economic geography has emphasized the productivity of dense urban agglomerations. Yet little attention is paid to one key policy implication of economic geography's core mechanisms: Environmental policies can aid economic development, per se¤mdash¤not hurting the economy to help the environment but advancing both objectives. We review mechanisms from economic geography that imply that environmental policies can deliver such win-wins: Influences upon agglomeration of long-standing natural conditions, like usable bays, which long were perceived as fixed yet now are being shifted by global environmental quality; agglomeration's effects on other influential conditions, like urban environmental quality; and the effects of rural environmental quality on the flows to cities of people and environmental quality. Finally, we consider a geographic policy typology in asking why society leaves money on the table by failing to promote environmental policies despite the potential win-wins that we highlight.
Morgan, S., Pfaff, A., & Wolfersberger, J. (2022). Environmental Policies Benefit Economic Development: Implications of Economic Geography. Annual Review of Resource Economics, 14, 427–446. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-resource-111920-022804
Concessions that grant logging rights to firms support economic development based on forest resources. Eco-certifications put sustainability restrictions on the operations of those concessions. For spatially detailed data, including many pre-treatment years, we use new difference-in-differences estimators to estimate 2002–2018 impacts upon Peruvian Amazon forests from both logging concessions and their eco-certifications. We find that the concessions − which in theory could raise or reduce forest loss − did not raise loss, if anything reducing it slightly by warding off spikes in deforestation pressure. Eco-certifications could reduce or raise forest loss, yet we find no significant impacts.
Rico-Straffon, J., Wang, Z., Panlasigui, S., Loucks, C. J., Swenson, J., & Pfaff, A. (2023). Forest concessions and eco-certifications in the Peruvian Amazon: Deforestation impacts of logging rights and logging restrictions. Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, 118. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jeem.2022.102780