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2023/24 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

SOEE2610 Economics and Sustainability

10 creditsClass Size: 120

Module manager: Dr Eric Kemp-Benedict

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2023/24

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

Every economic activity has environmental impacts, and yet achieving continual growth in the economy is a goal of nearly every nation in the world. This module provides both a macro and micro perspective on the relationship between the economy and environmental impacts, questioning the compatibility between economic growth and sustainability. Students will discover some of the basic concepts that underlie current economic theory, as well as the main ideas in ecological and environmental economics. Topics covered include weak vs. strong sustainability, the basic market equation, supply and demand, market failures, cost-benefit analysis, valuation of ecosystem services, human behaviour, economic accounting, biophysical accounting, economic growth, steady-state economics, and environmental policy instruments. The module touches on some of the big questions in ecological economics: Is there a fundamental conflict between economic growth and environmental protection? What is the value of the services provided by nature? Are human beings fundamentally selfish or altruistic? Can technology solves the big environmental problems, or must lifestyles change for sustainability?


This module is designed as a one-semester introduction to ecological and environmental economics for students with little or no prior exposure to economics. Ecological economics is a trans-disciplinary field that focuses on the relationship between the human enterprise and the biosphere. It seeks to overcome the conceptual and professional divide that has traditionally existed between economists and natural scientists to achieve a more coherent and pluralistic approach to the sustainability challenges faced by society.

The main objective of the module is to give students a good understanding of the basic concepts and terminology of economics, and to inspire students to think differently about our economy and the field of economics. The module is designed around principles of active learning. A high level of student preparation and engagement is expected.

This module is a pre-requisite for SOEE3750 Sustainability Economics in Practice.

Learning outcomes
On completion of this module students will:
- Understand the main concepts that underpin current economic thinking, as well as alternative models
- Appreciate the relationship between economic activity and environmental impacts
- Understand how markets work, and where they fail
- Be familiar with economic policy tools that may be used to address environmental and social problems
- Have become critical consumers of current economic theories and pathways

Skills outcomes
The module places considerable emphasis on analysing, synthesising and summarising information critically. Skills developed include critical thinking and oral presentation.


1. Key concepts such as the relationship between the economy and the environment, the five types of capital, weak and strong sustainability, and the laws of thermodynamics
2. Microeconomic concepts including the basic market equation, supply and demand, market failure, discounting, the valuation of ecosystem services, and human behaviour
3. Macroeconomic concepts including economic and biophysical accounting, the nature of money, distribution, and limits to growth
4. Alternative models to conventional economics including degrowth and steady-state economics

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours80.00
Total Contact hours20.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)100.00

Private study

Private study (80h) will consist of the following:
- Preparation for each lecture 2 x 10h = 20h
- Preparation for practical sessions 4 x 5h = 20h
- Preparation for the final exam = 40h

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Discussion Board activities, online exercises, and feedback in webinars.

Methods of assessment

Exam typeExam duration% of formal assessment
Online Time-Limited assessment48 hr 00 mins100.00
Total percentage (Assessment Exams)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 08/04/2024


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