EEPSEA Annual Conference
EEPSEA’s Annual Conference was successfully organized from 1 -3 December 2021 virtually on Zoom, providing a platform for exchanging research ideas and making connections to put forward the field of environmental economics using transdisciplinary approaches.
The conference “Environmental Economics in Southeast Asia – Transdisciplinary Approaches towards Sustainability and Enhancing Quality of Life” was hosted by the Economy & Environment Partnership for Southeast Asia (EEPSEA), jointly with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), College of Economics, Law & Government at the UEH University, and Environment for Development Center in Vietnam. This is part of EEPSEA’s ongoing work in promoting research in environmental economics using transdisciplinary approaches to increase sustainability and enhance life quality. Due to the ongoing pandemic, the conference was held virtually on Zoom, but it still received eager participation from nearly 450 participants, presenters, panelists, and guest speakers from around the world.
Planetary boundaries must be taken into account to ensure a sustainable economy
On the first day, the conference was honored to have Prof. Dr. Su Dinh Thanh (UEH President) and Dr. Eren Zink (First Secretary/Research Advisor, Embassy of Sweden in Thailand) to give the opening remarks. Following the warm welcome was the keynote speech by Prof. Dr. Arnold Tukker (Leiden University, the Netherlands), chaired by Dr. Pham Khanh Nam (EEPSEA Regional Director) on the topic of capital investments for developing a sustainable economy. Prof. Tukker highlighted the need to balance between respecting the planetary boundaries while meeting the social-economic goals of humankind. The presentation once again stressed the important role of research in aiding policymakers and practitioners in their informed policy choices. Next, 3 parallel sessions were held on different topics: session 1A Environmental health, session 1B Economy-wide environmental issues, and session 1C for new research proposals.
Climate change is the top pressing environmental challenge
The second day of the conference started with a roundtable discussion on future research topics for Southeast Asia. Coordinated by Dr. Gem Castillo (Director of the EEG Philippines), the session was joined by EEPSEA Executive Members from the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam. This is an interactive session where participants were able to give their opinions on the environmental problems of their concern, their research topics of interest, and which content they would like to see in EEPSEA’s future training. The poll results indicated climate change to be the top pressing environmental challenges faced globally, along with other inter-related challenges to the region, including waste & pollution, overexploitation & degradation of resources, and mismanagement. As for research topics of participants’ interest, there was a diversity of research fields not only from economics and environmental studies, but also from governance, business, and social studies. The results implied diversity in research backgrounds and interests of the participants and opened up promising topics for the future.
Afterward, Dr. Pham Khanh Nam (EEPSEA Regional Director) announced the detailed information and application procedure for the EEPSEA’s Seed Grant and Small Research Grant. The grants provide funding and supervision to researchers in Southeast Asia with research projects that apply the tools of economics in the analysis of policy-relevant environmental challenges, and preferences are given to those employing transdisciplinary approaches. Following the introduction of EEPSEA’s grant programs, the conference continued with 3 parallel sessions: session 2A on Marine resource management, session 2B on Environmental valuation, and session 2C for new research proposals.
Inter-related problems need interdisciplinary solutions and research
The third day started with 3 parallel sessions on environmental valuation, new research proposals, and EfD-Vietnam’s session on environment and development. The day continued with the keynote speech by Prof. Dr. Phoebe Koundouri (Athens University of Economics and Business, EAERE President-Elect) on interdisciplinary research for sustainable growth, chaired by Prof. Dr. Arief Yusuf (Director of the EEI Indonesia and Professor at the Padjadjaran University, Indonesia). Prof. Koundouri stressed the fact that all problems facing humanity are interrelated, so solutions need to transcend disciplinary boundaries to fully address them. Furthermore, it is crucial to communicate research findings and engage different stakeholders in the process so that science goes beyond the lab to make real-life impacts.
Two prizes for excellent research papers were awarded: the “Sustainability Prize” for the best paper “Fisher preferences for marine litter interventions in Vietnam” by Bui Bich Xuan (Nha Trang University), and the “Green Prize” for young female researcher with the paper “Does microcredit for water and sanitation improve household welfare: An evidence from Indonesia” presented by Kiki Amalia Tazkiyah (Universitas Indonesia). Despite being organized entirely online, the event was well-received by all participants from around the world with diverse research interests. As remarked by Dr. Pham Khanh Nam in his closing speech, the conference has fulfilled the purpose of facilitating networking, information exchange, and collaboration among researchers, which is also EEPSEA’s mission in promoting transdisciplinary research for development and environment.
By: Le Anh Khanh Minh