The journal Environment and Development Economics began operating in 1995; in a few months, it will complete 20 years of operation. It seemed appropriate to mark this occasion with a special issue of the journal that would provide some perspective on the field, looking both backward at what has been achieved and forward to what lies ahead. The issue begins with details of some key observations:

– Over the past 20 years, the global population has increased from 5.578 billion in 1993 to 7.162 billion in 2013 with majority of this increase being in the less developed regions of the world

– The increase in population varies widely from continent to continent. Between 2013 and 2040, according to the medium range population projection, by far the largest percentage increase will take place in Africa, which will see its population increase by 80%

– GDP per capita, has increased significantly in both the lower income countries (LIC) and the lower middle income countries (LMC) over the past 20 years

– Literacy rates have increased considerably over the past 20 years. In India and Bangladesh, where the literacy rates were the lowest of the countries shown, literacy among the population aged 15 and older increased by nearly 15% in India and over 22% in Bangladesh from 1990 to 2010. In China the literacy rate rose by over 17% over the same period

The changes detailed in the introduction are global changes which, however, are expected to have important effects on the developing world, along with the more localized impacts on environmental resources at the regional or the country level.

In this special issue, we begin with a Forum in which 20 economists who have made significant contributions to the field were asked to answer one of the following questions:

• In your opinion, what is the single biggest accomplishment of the field of environment and development economics over the past 20 years?

• What do you consider to be the biggest obstacles faced by the field of environment and development economics over the past 20 years?

• There is ongoing concern about the extent to which research in environment and development economics makes an impact on real world decisions. What do you see as some ways of maximizing the impact of environment and development economics research on policy decisions?

• What advice would you give today to a graduate student considering a career in the field of environment and development economics? How does this advice differ from advice you would have given 20 years ago?

• What do you believe to be the area of environment and development economics which holds the most promise for future research?

• What are the factors that led you to go into environment and development economics? If you were starting your career today, would you do anything differently?

• What do you consider to be some important research questions in environment and development economics that haven’t received adequate attention?

Their short essay answers not only reflect the diverse range of issues which the field encompasses, but also identify issues that will undoubtedly be important areas for future research.

Read the entire issue without charge here

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