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2017-07-03

Behavioural Nudges for Water Conservation: Experimental Evidence from Cape Town

The City of Cape Town has been working with EPRU to find an evidence-based answer to which methods are most effective in encouraging more prudent water use by the public. Prof Martine Visser, Dr Kerri Brick, and Johanna Brühl are behavioural economists at EPRU. The EPRU team was supported by Samantha De Martino from Sussex University, and Jorge Garcia from Cicero in Norway. The results assist the municipality to design policy that will help manage the city’s water supplies in an increasing climate change-stressed future. The study focuses on identifying which incentives best motivate households of different income levels to reduce their consumption.

2017-06-13

Greening Africa’s growing cites

Africa’s cities growth might have kicked off a bit later than many other developing world countries, but they are growing fast. This presents on this content with an opportunity to do so in a way that creates ‘a more harmonious relationship between their natural and built environments. This is according to a new report by the World Bank, which concludes that ‘focused action is necessary’ in order to avoid ‘largely unchecked (negative) impacts on the natural environment, and the degradation of natural assets and ecosystems within African cities’.

2017-05-08

Can Canadian fisheries management work for South Africa?

A South African research economist recently returned from a five-month sabbatical to British Columbia where he explored whether Canada’s approach to managing river salmon, and to a lesser extent sturgeon, could be replicated successfully for in-shore coastal fisheries management here.

2017-04-28

Nudging people to save water and power

Having competitions between staff, appointing water-saving ‘champions’ in your office block, or recognising people for their efforts to use energy more sparingly: these are small but powerful ways that cities can encourage people to cut their water and electricity use. Now, behavioural economists at the University of Cape Town’s Environmental Policy Research Unit (EPRU) are about to embark on a three-year collaboration with Cape Town’s utility managers, to see how they can implement these ideas across the city, and get them written into municipal policy. 

2017-04-18

Carrot-or-stick to ‘nudge’ water-wise behaviour

There are many ways for city utility departments to get people to voluntarily reduce their water use during a time of drought and water shortages. Some are positive, ‘carrot’ approaches; others might be ‘stick’ approaches to enforce certain behaviours. Now, the City of Cape Town is working with behavioural economists to find an evidence-based answer to which methods are most effective.

2017-04-18

Public praise for water-wise behaviour: a lesson for city managers

A team of behavioural economists has an important message for City of Cape Town’s water managers, who are currently implementing tight water restrictions after three years of drought in the region: if the city publicly praises individuals and households for their water saving efforts, this will get people to voluntarily contribute to even greater water-wise behaviour.

2017-03-22

Market mechanisms to nudge better watersheds management

The traditional approach to managing watersheds globally is to do so using state regulations, or through publicly funded initiatives. A recent analysis by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) shows that using market mechanisms to incentivise better watershed management is a good complement to these more widely used methods.

2017-01-26

Request for concept notes to develop collaborative multi-site research projects

SETI (http://seti.duke.edu/) invites concept notes to seed collaborative research related to energy transitions. We particularly welcome proposals for work related to the SETI priority themes, including: Consequences of energy poverty, defined as a lack of reliable access to electricity and other modern fuels Drivers of the energy transition in low- and middle-income contexts, including lessons from past experiences Impacts of energy transitions at various scales (households, firms, and the regional and global environment) Policy levers and solutions to speed the energy transition; and analysis of their effectiveness Notable gaps in research on energy transitions

2017-01-04

Fellowship for Environmental Studies at Duke Kunshan

Duke Kunshan University is now accepting applications for the new international Master of Environmental Policy (iMEP) Program. The iMEP program is a two-year degree offered jointly by Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy and Nicholas School of the Environment.  Students will study core courses in both environmental management and public policy at Duke Kunshan University (China) and Duke University (United States).  We would really appreciate it if you could share this information with people who might be interested. 

2016-12-09

EPRU helps assess shale gas mining risk

The Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) recently released a scientific assessment of the risks and opportunities of shale gas mining, which is proposed for parts of the Karoo region of South Africa. 

2016-12-05

SA environmental policy should have climate change focus

CAPE TOWN: The South African government has drawn up some of the most advanced environmental laws and policies on the continent, since its transition to a democratic state in 1994. In a recent overview of these, University of Cape Town (UCT) resource economist Dr Jane Turpie has identified key areas were future research is needed, in order to boost this policy further, with responses to climate change being a key theme.

2016-11-29

SA’s ocean economy reviewed

CAPE TOWN: South Africa’s oceans and beaches boost the country’s economy by roughly 35 percent, in terms of the ‘goods and services’ they provide. This is highlighted in a report released recently by the local branch of the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), which gives an overview of the economic value of South Africa’s marine environments.

2016-11-25

How to drive water saving amongst office staff

CAPE TOWN: Appointing a water-saving ‘champion’ in an office block context could be one way that municipalities and companies in South Africa can respond quickly and cheaply to the water restrictions facing many parts of the country, following two years of severe drought.

2016-11-15

Putting a value on Cape Town’s green spaces

The people of Cape Town are being given a chance to tell city managers just how much they value the natural green spaces, manicured parks, sports fields, and street trees in their neighbourhoods. And what they say may help park authorities decide how to prioritise their spending, at a time when there is growing pressure to develop open green spaces for housing or business opportunities.

2016-08-02

Risk in small farming: winning Masters’ thesis

CAPE TOWN: A study of how small-scale farmers in the Western Cape, South Africa, shape their decisions around using conventional or organic farming methods, based on their perceived risks, has won an economics Masters student at the University of Cape Town (UCT) an award for the best thesis in her year.

2016-06-02

Surprising finding: water heating behaviour in SA

CAPE TOWN: The single most effective thing that South Africans can do to reduce their energy use related to heating water in their homes, is to switch off hot water cylinders half an hour before they are most likely to bath or shower. Those people who do switch their cylinders on and off during the day, as an energy saving measure, tend to turn them off after the geysers have refilled and reheated, which is wasteful of energy. 

2016-05-27

Planning for climate responses’ unintended fallout

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA: When home owners at a seaside residential complex in Milnerton, Cape Town, decided to pile up sandbags between the beach and their gardens in the early 2000s, their intention was to stop the high tide from eating away at their plots during storm surges. What they didn’t anticipate was that this erosion control measure would make their property prices fall, reduce beach space, drive away tourists, and leave the beach strewn with litter.

2016-05-18

Better banking, communications, needed in Southern Africa

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA: When a touring group of 289 mountain bikers needs to cross legally from Botswana into Zimbabwe, and then South Africa (SA), far from any official border posts, it means setting up informal but bureaucratically-sound passport control points in dry river beds or on dirt tracks.

2016-05-09

Is there an economic case for fracking?

WORCESTER, SOUTH AFRICA: If the South African government gives the green light for private energy companies to begin extracting shale gas using the method of hydrological fracturing, or ‘fracking’, will it have economic benefits for the region and the country? And if so, could these be offset by the cost of the potential negative impacts to other sectors and communities in the water-scarce Karoo, where fracking is being considered?

2016-04-21

Putting a price tag on natural water purification

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA: Nature can help to purify the water we drink. When a forest upstream of a water treatment plant is intact and healthy, the water arriving in the plant can be of  better quality than if the forest has been heavily harvested or clear-felled. Better quality water arriving in the plant, means fewer chemicals needed to clean the water, and the purification costs are therefore lower.

2016-04-21

Standardising the valuation of nature’s services

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA: A working group of resource economists met in Cape Town this April to agree on the methods they will use in order to contribute to the development of a standardised national accounting system for valuing ecosystem services.

2016-04-07

Workshop on the standardising of accounting system for nature’s services

When a country wants to tally up its economic performance, it generally uses ‘gross domestic product’ as its measuring stick. That’s a global standard of accounting, agreed upon according to the United Nations’ ‘systems of national accounting’, which allows all countries of the world to compare apples with apples in their economic reporting. 

2016-04-01

‘Time of use’ tariffs in the spotlight

SOUTH AFRICA: Charging a premium for peak-time electricity could be an effective way of getting city consumers to spread their power use more evenly throughout the day, helping the national utility to manage the country’s grid more effectively.

2016-03-30

Smart device cuts geyser energy by up to a third

Stellenbosch, South Africa: An experimental geyser control device, which is operated via the internet a smart phone app, has the potential to cut household water heating by up to 30 percent without users noticing a change to their hot water use habits. 

2016-03-30

Tracking water use trends in SA’s ‘mother city’

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA: In informal settlements and lower income homes in Cape Town, most household water use is for doing laundry. However, in the middle class suburbs, it’s mostly for showering and topping up swimming pools. This finding, from a recent municipal survey in five suburbs across South Africa’s ‘mother city’, underpins an ongoing drive to educate city residents about their water use patterns, in order to urge behaviour change.

2016-03-30

Utilities-based funding model is a problem in SA cities

CAPE TOWN: South Africa’s bigger cities get a large amount of their revenue from the sale of electricity and water to consumers. And owing to the pricing structure of these services, cities earn more from large-volume users, and use this revenue to cross-subsidise smaller volume users, who often fall in lower income communities.

2016-03-01

Economists hail Cape wetland conservation

Local economics researchers have hailed the announcement this month that the City of Cape Town will reverse a decision to sell a section of the Princess Vlei wetland near Diep River to developers, who planned to build a shopping mall.

2016-02-11

Sharing the Berg River’s contested waters

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA  The water flowing down the Berg River, towards the Cape West Coast and Saldanha Bay, is the lifeblood of two competing sectors: heavy industry, and agriculture. But as demand for this limited resource grows, how do the water managers decide who gets access to it, when the water in the river is already fully allocated between existing users?

2015-12-01

Knowing angler ‘hotspots’ could help enforce catch limits

Anglers along the South African coastline choose their fishing spots on the likelihood of catching the most fish, rather than how far they have to walk to get to the spot, or weather conditions. Knowing where these fishing ‘hotspots’ are could help authorities enforce catch limits, as line fish stocks have depleting dramatically in recent years.

2015-11-30

Debunking Africa’s ‘resource curse’

Not all economists buy into the notion of the ‘resource curse’ - namely, that resource-rich countries end up with slower growth and stalled development, in spite of having bankable natural assets. Newly appointed associate professor Mare Sarr argues that principles of transparency, accountability and institutions are more important factors leading to whether countries use or abuse their natural wealth.

2015-11-30

Don’t oversell nature’s services in cities, scientist warns

Natural spaces within city limits, such as wetlands or forests, can offer important support to cities in terms of helping to manage waste water, or slow down flood waters. But scientists shouldn’t over-sell certain of these ecosystem services when lobbying for their protection with city managers, because it could lead to greater pressure being put on these already over-pressured systems.

2015-11-30

What’s the ‘play’ value of SA’s Kogelberg coast?

The beautiful Kogelberg coastline - a 100 km long stretch of towering mountains and craggy beaches about an hour’s drive east of Cape Town - and its surrounding tourist attractions are estimated to have a ‘recreational value’ of about US$27.2 million (ZAR272 million) annually.

2015-11-27

Zimbabwean peasant farmers could learn from commercial conservationists

Zimbabwe’s community-based conservation approach, which brings together peasant farmers in a tourism-focused approach to wildlife management, has not curbed poaching along the edge of protected areas as intended. And communities haven’t benefited as much from the income they hoped to gain from selling hunting licences, either.

2015-11-26

Zimbabwean economist gets UCT professorship

Newly appointed professor Edwin Muchapondwa has travelled a long way since he left his home town of Bindura, near Harare, when he was eight years old. Over three decades later, the conservation and development challenges of rural Zimbabwe remain front and centre for the University of Cape Town (UCT) economist.

2015-11-09

EPRU brings ‘neutral’ view to Namibia mining question

The Namibian government is considering whether or not to open up its offshore phosphate deposits for dredge mining. But before it does so, it wants to make a careful and considered decision based on independent analysis of the likely impacts on the environment, and how other competing industries might be affected.

2015-11-09

Government’s role in promoting tourism

Southern African states need to create the right policy, fight corruption and build infrastructure if they want tourism to thrive in their countries. By doing so, they will allow the economic development potential of the sector to trickle down to communities in a way that encourages inclusive and sustainable growth.

2015-11-05

Private ecotourism can drive rural development

When ecotourism lodges employ people from within some remote communities in Southern Africa, they are often giving them their first permanent job. This highlights the importance of these staff being given adequate training as they fill their posts.

2015-09-30

EPRU fellow takes top economics PhD award

How will people behave as they’re faced with the challenges of climate change? Will they work together to cut carbon emissions, in the interest of the greater good, or will they act in their own self-interest? And how much of a gamble will people take as they grapple with how to cope with living in a world where extreme weather events become the new ‘normal’?

2015-09-30

Award winning dissertation, in brief.

Dr Kerri Brick recently won the prestigious Economic Society of South Africa (ESSA) prize for the best doctoral dissertation submitted in 2014. The Environmental Policy Research Unit (EPRU) fellow, based at the University of Cape Town’s School of Economics, submitted a thesis based on four papers which explore how people might respond to different aspects of the challenges which climate change presents society.

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