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Environmental Economics


Admission requirements

Required course(s):

  • Environmental Governance or Life-cycle Analysis or the instructor’s permission

Recommended course(s):

  • Microeconomics, Quantitative Research Methods, and/or Political Economy of Natural Resources


This 300-level course focuses on our environment(s), which function as public goods in providing benefits but can --- as common pool goods --- be affected by the positive or negative externalities resulting from private behavior. Although `‘the environment'' is often defined as nature (e.g., land, water, air), it is more broadly defined to include the shared spaces (e.g., markets, classrooms, websites, electromagnetic spectrum) that nobody owns but everyone gains from. We will explore the value of environments, discuss how actions produce positive and negative impacts on environments, evaluate the magnitude of those impacts, and discuss different theories for managing and methods of protecting environments in the traditions of Pigou, Coase and Ostrom.

A knowledge of microeconomics is useful but not essential to this class (basic concepts will be reviewed and taught). Among other ideas, students will learn about assessing the incentives for behaviors and distribution of costs and benefits from policies (e.g., polluter pays, discounting, and mis-matched political-economic jurisdictions) as well as how aggregated environmental impacts and policies alter the market landscape within and among countries (e.g., pollution havens, and intergenerational equity, and environmental Kuznets curve)

Students will apply these ideas to a course paper on the topic of their choice that will use a cost-benefit analysis of market and non-market values to explore the existing distribution of costs and benefits as well as policy proposals that might move the distribution (and overall impact) of those polices closer to sustainability.

Course Objectives


  • Have mastered, presented and written up an environmental case study that explores the drivers, costs, benefits, and barriers to addressing an environmental issue of their choice

  • Critical assessment of environmental issues, case studies and policy documents


  • Explain the benefits and challenges of sustainability from an economic and political perspective.

  • Have a working knowledge of cost-benefit analysis, discount rates, and the impact of distribution on policy design and implementation


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2021-2022 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

The course is taught through two-hour seminars. Students will be expected to participate in both large and small group discussions; present and defend their ideas within an academic setting; and take part in group projects. The instructor will facilitate and ensure the efficient running of the discussion, but students are responsible for its quality.

Assessment Method

Class participation: 10% (continuous weeks 1-7)
Study team: 10% (continuous weeks 1-7)
Blog post: 10% (due week 4)
Climate vision: 5% (due week 5)
Peer reviews: 2x10% (due week 6)
Individual Presentation: 10% (due week 7)
Case study paper: 35% (due reading week)

Reading list

Roughly 30 academic papers (approx. 400 pages)


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


David Zetland (