Economic assessment and analysis
The Institute works with clients to identify and assess the social, environmental and economic costs and benefits for a range of policies and programmes. Responding to the client's objectives, we apply cost-effectiveness or cost-benefit principles to our projects. Estimating and including the costs of environmental externalities is at the core of our practice.
By taking an integrated approach, we are uniquely positioned to link our economic research and analytical tools with community consultation as well as technical/ biophysical modeling. This enables us to rigorously assess impacts of projects, programmes and policies on industry, government and community sectors - and to communicate analysis is to key stakeholders.
We have experience and expertise in economic assessment across sustainability issues including:
- Portfolio analysis based on least-cost planning (Integrated Resource Planning) for the urban water, transport and energy sectors
- Valuation of catchments and rivers, using willingness-to-pay techniques, deliberative forums and bullterrier approaches
- Best-practice costing of assets, projects and programs in the water industry
- Evaluation of waste management policies
- Review and analysis of the effectiveness of urban demand management policies and programmes across Australia
- Evaluation of the costs and benefits of sustainability initiatives within urban developments
- Valuation of the public good contribution of community facilities and services
- Evaluation of climate change impacts of various programmes
- Environmental cost/ benefit accounting and reporting
- Trade liberalization and tariffs
Download/view our Socio-Economic Analysis capability statement (pdf, 294kb).
Big picture questions
Sustainability is embedded in the relationship between dynamic cultural, economic and biophysical systems associated across the landscape. Sustainability is about managing this relationship to ensure continuing quality of life for human societies.
To achieve the goal of sustainability in this context, decision-making - by governments, businesses and individuals - necessarily involves dealing with values, incentives, institutions and the need to integrate across disciplines and perspectives. This is the realm of ecological economics. Applications of conventional economics (the 'science of choice and incentives') are widely known to be incompatible with the complexity of decisions involving high uncertainty, multiple value sets and long-term objectives.
Hence, there are significant challenges:
- Values - the common metric of the dollar is extremely powerful, yet at times highly inappropriate:
- What are we actually measuring? Are we capturing all values, e.g. that of natural capital?
- 'To value or not to value' - where do we draw the line when putting dollar values on environmental goods and services?
- Incentives - how do we design effective, efficient and equitable incentive-based solutions?
- Institutions - how do we design effective, efficient and equitable governance structures for sustainability?;
- Integration - how do we integrate our understanding of ecosystems with our knowledge of human motivation, well-being and social values?
For further information about this topic contact Dr Roel Plant