19th BIOECON Conference summary


The 19th conference of the BIOdiversity and Economics for CONservation Network (BIOECON) took place between the 20th and 22nd of September at Tilburg University, The Netherlands. The conference was organised by Pr. Daan van Soest at Tilburg University, with the assistance of Kristel Suijs. The theme of the conference was "Evidence Based Environmental Policies and the Optimal Management of Natural Resources". The key note speakers were Pr. John List from the University of Chicago, and Pr. Martin Quaas, University of Kiel and member of the BIOECON network.

Pr. List spoke on the role of behavioural economics in the design of environmental policy. This was a rather prescient keynote presentation given the subsequent award of the Nobel Prize in economics to Richard Thaler in the weeks following the conference. Pr. Quaas presented the latest research on the optimal management of fisheries and the role of thresholds and the demand side for fish in determining the likely evolution of the resource over time. UNEP sponsored plenary panel session was also held to discuss sustainability and the sustainable development goals (SDGs). Speaking on the topic were Pr. Anastasios Xepapadeas, Pr. Rick can der Ploeg, and Pr. Herman Volleburgh, each of whom had differing views on the motivation for and the likely success of the SDGs. In between these plenary sessions the conference was populated by the usual parallel sessions on topics ranging from climate change to eco-system services valuation to fisheries to agriculture and biodiversity.

The conference was particularly memorable since it was held in conjunction with the valedictory celebration of Pr. Aart de Zeeuw, whose work on the economics of the environment, particularly in relation to game theory and the analysis of thresholds, was pioneering within the field. Pr de Zeeuw was present throughout the conference, and attended sessions on thresholds and ecological dynamics, as well as the plenary sessions before giving his valedictory speech to the BIOECON participants, and his academic colleagues and friends who had assembled for the event. Pr. de Zeeuw's speech was preceded by summaries of his many contributions and his influence in the field given by Pr. Anastasios Xepapadeas and Pr. Daan van Soest, before Pr. de Zeeuw was awarded the prestigious Tjalling Koopmans medal in recognition of these contributions, and informed of the creation of the Aart de Zeeuw scholarship by Pr John List. The scholarship will fund a year of study at the University of Chicago for a Tilburg PHD student in economics. All told it was a very successful conference.

The BIOECON Scientific Committee met and agreed that the 20th BIOECON conference in 2018 would be held at Kings College Cambridge between the 12th and the 14th of September.