Professor Ben Groom
Dragon Capital Chair in Biodiversity Economics
Xfi Building F09
Xfi Building, University of Exeter, Rennes Drive, Exeter, EX4 4ST, UK
Professor Groom joined the department from the London School of Economics in the summer of 2020 as the Dragon Capital Chair in Biodiversity Economics. This is a philanthropically funded Chair whose objectives are to strengthen public policy on biodiversity and investigate how the financial sector and consumer behaviour can be changed so that biodiversity is conserved for current and future societies.
Professor Groom currently is a member of the HM Treasury Biodiversity Working Group which is tasked with looking at how to ensure biodiversity is accounted for Cost benefit Analysis of public policy and investment. He is also working on a consultation on intergenerational equity and the environment, also with HM Treasury. He has worked on intergenerational fairness in social decision making and has advised governments across the world on their approach to long-term policy and investment in relation to environmental issues such as biodiversity and climate change. Papers in the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, the Economic Journal, the American Economic Review (P&P), Science and Nature have been presented to the UK, US and EU governments and informed their guidance on social discounting and long-term decision-making. Professor Groom has written recent reports to HM Treasury, the Office of National Statistics, the Department of Transport and international organisations such as the OECD, International Transport Forum, the International Seabed Authority and the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Pr. Groom has a PHD in economics from the Department of Economics at University College London.
Prior to his academic career, Pr Groom worked as an Overseas Development Institute Fellow in the Department of Water Affairs, Ministry of Agriculture, in the Government of the Republic of Namibia, and as a consultant to the UN Mission in Kosovo. He has worked as a consultant to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in Pakistan, the OECD and the Government of China.
Administrative responsibilities: Principal Investigator for the £1.6m Dragon Capital Chair on Biodiversity Economics
- Biodiversity and climate change economics;
- Intergenerational fairness the social discount rate for long-term policy;
- Land-use change, the causes of deforestation, habitat and biodiversity loss;
- Behavioural and experimental economics for social and individual preferences;
- Finance and biodiversity;
- Conflict, individual preferences and conflict resolution
Professor Groom has worked on intergenerational fairness in social decision making and has advised governments across the world on their approach to long-term policy and investment in relation to environmental issues such as biodiversity and climate change. His paper "Discounting Disentangled" (American Economic Journal: Economic Policy), explores expert opinions on the discount rate for distant time horizons. "Positively Gamma Discounting" (Economic Journal) investigates how disparate expert opinions on the social discount rate can be aggregated and disagreement circumvented. These paper led to ‘Climate economics support for the UN climate targets’ (Nature Climate Change 2020) shows how proper treatment of disagreement can be key to optimal climate policy, which coincides with the Paris Agreement target 1.5C. Together with "Determining Benefits and Costs for Future Generations" (Arrow et al. 2013, Science), and "Eight priorities for the Social Cost of Carbon" (Nature) these papers have all attempted to influence government guidance on Cost Benefit Analysis and the Social Cost of Carbon from the Obama and Biden administrations in the US, to the UK Treasury and other European countries. Most recently "Discounting Disentangled" was used in the legal case that led to New York State opting for a Carbon Price of $125/tCO2. In 2018 2 chapters in the OECD’s “Cost Benefit Analysis and the Environment” spelled out general guidance to practitioners on social discounting and the social cost of carbon. Together with co-author Mark Freeman from the University of York, we have reported to organisations as varied as the Norwegian and Dutch Ministries of Finance, the UK Department of Transport, Office of National Statistics and HM Treasury and the International Seabed Authority on social discounting and CBA.
Recent and upcoming projects focus on the causes of biodiversity and habitat loss. Together with Charles Palmer and Lorenzo Sileci at the LSE, ‘Carbon emissions reductions from Indonesia’s Moratorium on forest concessions’ (under revision) evaluates the success of Norway’s REDD+ agreement with Indonesia. This work will be extended from its current focus on carbon sequestration, to look at impacts on biodiversity. Also with Charles Palmer, ‘Land sparing in agricultural landscapes’ (in progress) evaluates whether the EU agricultural set-aside scheme was successful in increasing biodiversity in agricultural landscapes, and highlights that its success depends on how biodiversity is defined: populations? species richness? variation? Forthcoming research with Frank Venmans at the LSE will develop a theoretical pricing formular for carbon and biodiversity offsets which embodies uncertainty, additionality and the characteristics of the natural capital in question. Academic work on the Economics of Biodiversity is central to the Dragon Capital Chair, as is policy work. The Treasury Biodiversity Working Group, the BIOECON network, and observer status on the Taskforce for Nature Related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) are just some of the areas contributed to by the Chair.
Finally, with Elisa Cavatorta at Kings College London, ‘Do deterrent policies change preferences: evidence from the Palestinian territories’ (European Economic Review 2020) investigates how individual preferences are altered by political events and shows using field experiments either side of the barrier wall between the West Bank and Israel, that those affected by the wall have higher risk tolerance are more impatient than those unaffected. This paper is one of a number of papers investigating individual preferences and conflict in the context of this regional conflict.
The Dragon Capital Chair currently has two Post Doctoral Research Associates working on biodiversity economics (Ben Balmford) and Finance and Biodiversity (Wei Xin). On biodiversity economics the Chair will be investigating the spatial economic causes of deforestation and regrowth of tropical forests in South America and Indonesia, and investigating which policies might work to halt biodiversity loss. On finance and biodiversity, the Chair will be investigating the efficacy of ESG disclosure mechanisms to take into account biodiversity and change investment behaviour. Both strands of the Chair will be concerned with measurement of biodiversity for policy purposes. The Biodiversity Working Group at HM Treasury is also a central Dragon Capital initiative, as are collaborations with the International Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and the BIOECON network, which recently convened responses to the IPBES Values Assessment, a major report on the plurality of values for biodiversity.
Pr. Groom is also working on the economic value of offsets for carbon and biodiversity, alternatives to GDP which embody income inequality, and continued work on intergenerational equity.
Pr. Groom continues to work on the behavioural aspects of conflict and conflict resolution with a focus on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict following support from the LSE Middle East Centre.
External Engagement and Impact
- Principal Investigator for the £1.6m Dragon Capital Chair on Biodiversity Economics
Awards and Honours
- Teaching Excellence Award. LSE, November 2018.
- Visiting Professor at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, London School of Economics.
- Co-Chair of the BIOECON network scientific committee
- Member of the scientific committee of the UK network of environmental economists
- Member of the Lancet Commission on Green Growth in the Post-Covid era.
- HM Treasury Biodiversity Working Group member.
- Member of the EAERE Policy Outreach Committee. (POC)
- CBA. Gothenburg, May 2021.
- Keynote speaker: The Economics of Inequality and the Environment Conference. EIE. Sept 2020.
- FSR Climate and EAERE side-event at the 2020 State of the Union Meeting. “Europe as a (key?) player in the global climate policy”. Florence, May 2020.
- Cross Regulation Group lunch. “Evaluation of infrastructure spending - the Green book, the Budget and the Comprehensive Spending Review”. British Academy, March 2020.
- EU State of the Union meeting: ‘Trust in the Single [carbon] Market?’. Invited panelist. Florence, May 2019.
- HM Treasury – LEEP Workshop: Applying Natural Capital, Royal Society, April 2019. Invited Speaker.
- Cost Benefit Analysis and the Environment. Public Lecture LSE, November 2018.
- Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Harvard University: Invited Speaker at workshop on discounting and health valuation, Harvard Club of Boston, 14th September 2017.
- National Infrastructure Commission: Member of Panel on Cost Benefit Analysis. April 2017 (first meeting).
- France Strategié, Government of France: Discounting Policy Workshop. Invited speaker. March 2017.
- HM Treasury workshop entitled “Social Discounting in the UK” Part II. April 2016.
- United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Invited speaker at Workshop on ‘Mainstreaming ecosystem services into country's sectoral and macroeconomic policies and programmes’. Geneva, Feb 2016.
- Ministry of Finance, Financial and Economic Policy Directorate, Government of the Netherlands, Working Group on Cost Benefit Analysis. Invited expert on social discounting. The Hague, January 2015. Report.
- ‘Mitigate we Might, Adapt we Must!– Climate Change, Water and Food Security in Pakistan’. Expert panel at the Lahore University of Management Science (LUMS), April 2014. Link
- OECD International Transport Forum: Member of Working Group on the Assessment of Policies for Long-Term Transition to Sustainable Transport, Paris, December 2013. Link. Report December 2015.
- Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Economic Advisory Panel. December, 2013
- HM Treasury Seminar entitled “Social Discounting in the UK”. June 17th, 2013.
- Norwegian Ministry of Finance, May 2012. Panel member for workshop on Intergenerational Discounting. http://nyttekost-web.sharepoint.com/Pages/HomeDay2.aspx
- USEPA and Resources for the Future (RFF), Washington, September 2011. Invited panel member for workshop on intergenerational discounting. RFF Seminar
- Environmental and Resource Economics
- Environment and Development