Thomas Sterner

Senior Contributing Economist


Areas of expertise:
Selection and design of environmental policy instruments; economics in general; climate and energy; natural resource economics

Thomas Sterner works with the Office of the Chief Economst, participating in various projects related to climate, energy, fisheries and ecosystems. Thomas served as EDF's Visiting Chief Economist from 2012 to 2013.

Thomas is professor of environmental economics at the University of Gothenburg. For the academic year 2015-2016 he was elected visiting professor at the Collège de France in Paris. His inauguration lecture with the title “The Menu of Environmental Policy Instruments” can be watched here.

His main research interests lie in the design of policy instruments. Within this broad area he has focused on a number of applications such as economics of energy use and climate change as well as resource management in developing countries. His recent articles on these topics include “Push renewables to spur carbon pricing” and “Higher costs of climate change.”

Another part of Thomas’ research focuses on the design and use of social discount rates. Recently published articles within this area are “Discounting and relative consumption” and “Determining Benefits and Costs for Future Generations”. He has had several presentations on the topic, most recently at “The Shift Forum” organized by the French Think Tank “The Shift Project”, which collaborates intensely with corporate and political leaders. A version of the speech can be watched here with the title “Explaining Ramsey”.

Thomas also focuses on interaction with policy-makers and was for example participating in the Climate Conference in Paris in 2015 (COP21). On the expectations leading up to the negotiations he wrote several debate articles including “From Copenhagen to Paris – the Current State of Climate Negotiations” well as “The Paris climate-change conference needs to be more ambitious”. A month before the conference he also organized a two-day symposium titled "Paris 2015 and beyond, cooling the climate debate", where some the world's leading climate researchers participated. Presentations from the symposium can be watched here.

He is/was also recently:

  • Member of the Scientific Council for Sustainable Development to the Swedish Government (2015-Present)
  • Coordinating lead author of Chapter 15 on Policy Instruments in the IPCC Fifth Assessment report (2010-2015)

For further information, see Thomas Sterner’s personal homepage at the University of Gothenburg.


Dr. Sterner is a professor of environmental economics at the university of Gothenburg in Sweden, where he has built up one of the larger research teams in Europe. His team has started an organization called Environment for Development through which they and Resources for the Future in Washington, D.C., collaborate with six research centers in Africa, China and Central America. They do research on pollution and natural resource management and communicate the research to policy makers to try to make a difference.

He is also a past president of the European Association or Environmental and Resource Economists (EAERE) and a Coordinating Lead Author of the IPCC.

  • Phd in Economics
  • Recipient of the Myrdal Prize
  • Associate Editor of Environmental and Resource Economics
  • On the board of MISTRA and various other boards.



R. Ahuja, et al. “From Copenhagen to Paris – the Current State of Climate Negotiations” Foreign Affairs. November 25, 2015.

T. Sterner. “The Paris climate-change conference needs to be more ambitious” The Economist. November 18, 2015.

Sterner, Thomas. “Higher costs of climate change” Nature 527: 177-178 (November 12, 2015).

O. Johansson-Stenman and T. Sterner. “Discounting and relative consumption” Journal of Environmental Economics and Management. May 2015.

Wagner, Gernot, Tomas Kåberger, Susanna Olai, Michael Oppenheimer, Katherine Rittenhouse, and Thomas Sterner. “Push renewables to spur carbon pricing” Nature 525: 27–29 (3 September 2015).

Afsah, Shakeb; Allen Blackman; Jorge H. Garcia and Thomas Sterner. (2013) Environmental Regulation and Public Disclosure: The Case of PROPER in Indonesia [PDF] RFF Press.

K. Arrow, et al. “Determining Benefits and Costs for Future Generations” Science. July 26, 2013.

Press materials