Cameron Hepburn is Professor of Environmental Economics at the University of Oxford and the London School of Economics and Political Science, and he is Director of the Economics of Sustainability Programme at the Institute for New Economic Thinking at the Oxford Martin School He has published widely on energy, resources and environmental challenges across a range of disciplines, and is a policy advisor on energy and climate policy to governments and international institutions around the world including the OECD, and UN organisations. He is on the editorial board of Environmental Research Letters and is the managing editor of the Oxford Review of Economic Policy.
In this wide ranging interview, Professor Hepburn discusses his work as an academic and policy advisor on expanding markets to help spur the transition to a sustainable future. Recognising that price mechanisms, like ecosystem pricing, are not a panacea to deal with environmental challenges, he nonetheless believes that they can be effective and ethical. He describes some of the challenges in constructing these markets and what lessons have been learnt from both successes and failures. Professor Hepburn also notes how corporations and governments, rather than being in opposition to each other, can work constructively together. Indeed, given that some of the most challenging environmental issues are global in nature, Professor Hepburn believes that multinational corporations can play a positive role, particularly in protecting the natural capital which ultimately their businesses depend on. At the same time, he acknowledges the limits of such markets, stressing that regulations are vital to prevent fundamental planetary thresholds from being transgressed. While optimistic about the direction of travel, Professor Hepburn acknowledges the need to speed up the energy transition and stresses how socio-political self-reinforcing mechanisms, such as the falling cost of renewables and consumer behaviour, will help the energy transition. Finally, he discusses some of his latest work on expanding the concept of stranded assets to stranded labour and communities in order to demonstrate how the post-carbon economy must be inclusive by design so that it can expand at the necessary speed and scale.