Dr. Terry VAN GEVELT
Dr Terry VAN GEVELT is Assistant Professor in Environmental Sustainability at the Department of Politics and Public Administration at the University of Hong Kong. His current research focuses primarily on how risk perceptions and behaviours affect climate change policy. He draws on insights from behavioural public policy and employs methodologies ranging from experimental methods to ethnography, immersive virtual reality experiences, and machine learning. Terry also maintains a leading research profile in the areas of environmental and energy policy. His research has been published in high impact journals, including Nature Climate Change, Scientific Reports, Climatic Change, Environmental Science and Policy, Energy Policy and Global Environmental Change. Terry is Associate Editor for the journal Energy for Sustainable Development and a Fellow at the Centre for Environment, Energy and Natural Resource Governance at the University of Cambridge. He collaborates with a wide international research network and has held or will be taking up visiting fellowships at Seoul National University, National University of Singapore, and Cornell University. From 2017 to 2020, Terry held a joint-appointment at the Faculty of Engineering and spearheaded interdisciplinary teaching and research across the university. Prior to joining the University of Hong Kong, Terry was a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Land Economy and the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge. He holds MPhil and PhD degrees from the University of Cambridge.
- 2021. Urban agglomeration worsens spatial disparities in climate adaptation (with S. Kim, M.M. Bennett and P. Joosse). Scientific Reports 11(8446): 1-11.
Abstract URLUrban agglomeration policy can exacerbate spatial inequalities in climate adaptation by neglecting local heterogeneity. Many countries attempt to promote urban agglomeration to enhance economic competitiveness, but the policy’s impacts on local climate adaptation remain weakly understood. Here, we exploit variation in greenspaces to test the effectiveness of climate adaptation policy across climate impacts and vulnerability dimensions. Using satellite imagery and logistic regression, we analyze spatiotemporal correlation between greenspace and climate vulnerability in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area. We find that while greenspace increases proportionally with climate exposure and sensitivity, many cities exhibit discrepancies between greenspace and climate vulnerability. Green adaptation funnels into wealthier, less vulnerable areas while bypassing more vulnerable areas, increasing their climate impacts and undermining the benefits of urban agglomeration. Our results suggest that centrally-planed climate adaptation policy must accommodate local heterogeneity to improve urban sustainability.
- 2020. End-user perceptions of success and failure: Narratives from a natural laboratory of rural electrification projects in Malaysian Borneo (with T. Zaman, F. George, M.M. Bennett, S.D. Fam and J.E. Kim). Energy for Sustainable Development 59: 189-198.
Abstract URLLocated deep in the Kelabit Highlands in Malaysian Borneo, the remote town of Bario offers us a natural laboratory of rural electrification projects through which to understand end-user perceptions of success and failure, and the factors that contribute to these perceptions. We use a case-study based approach and focus on three off-grid energy projects: a 110kW mini-hydro power plant; a 12kW wind turbine system; and a 1.59MW solar-diesel hybrid system. We find that end-users primarily see the success or failure of a project in technical terms, but that this narrow conceptualization masks important interactions between technical, economic and institutional factors. We further find that end-user perceptions of newer projects are heavily affected by their perceptions of previous projects. Our findings suggest several ways forward to improve the effectiveness of rural electrification initiatives. Firstly, we should expect complex interactions between technical, economic and institutional factors and build-in the necessary capacity into rural electrification projects to identify and address these interactions. Secondly, there is no one size fits all solution to creating the requisite capacity to deal with interactions among technical, economic and institutional factors. Thirdly, ongoing qualitative or mixed-methods evaluations of rural electrification initiatives can help unravel what would otherwise be hidden interactions between technical, economic and institutional factors
- 2020 Impacts of green infrastructure on flood risk perceptions in Hong Kong (with S.K. Kim, P. Joosse and M.M. Bennett). Climatic Change. 162: 2277-2299.
Abstract URLTo better address climate unpredictability, green infrastructure is increasingly deployed alongside gray infrastructure as an alternative strategy for flood risk mitigation. Previous research has not clearly distinguished the flood-mitigation effects of green infrastructure at the local scale due to its complex range of functions including socioeconomic benefits, ecosystem services, and amenity value. Using data on 3768 housing sales from 2009 to 2019 in Hong Kong, we employ a difference-in-differences framework to examine the effect of green infrastructure on perceptions of flood risk mitigation, with housing prices as a proxy for risk perception. We find a positive effect of green infrastructure on the value of nearby housing. The effect does not exist in apartment units on higher floors, however. This vertical discrepancy further suggests that the observed pricing effects are due to green infrastructure’s capacity to reduce perceptions of flood risk. By contrast, properties near conventional gray infrastructure show no evidence of such effects. The results thus provide quantitative evidence that supports the ongoing shift toward green infrastructure as a form of climate change adaptation.
- 2020 Central inspection teams and the enforcement of environmental regulations in China (with C. Xiang). Environmental Science and Policy. 112: 431-439.
Abstract URLDespite the existence of a comprehensive set of environmental regulations, China’s environmental issues continue largely unabated and are increasingly leading to discontent among its citizens. Mirroring recent governance trends in China, the central government has increasingly taken a more hands-on-role to ensure the enforcement of environmental regulations by local government officials. One manifestation of this effort to re-centralize environmental institutions has been the establishment and deployment of Central Environmental Inspection Teams (CEITs). CEITs report directly to the central government and are dispatched to carry out crackdowns where the central government has reason to believe that environmental regulations are not being enforced. With over 29,000 companies fined and around 18,000 local government officials disciplined, the CEIT has been heralded as a great success by the central government. Using a combination of primary and secondary data, we partially reconstruct the inaugural CEIT deployment in Hebei province in 2016 from the perspectives of government officials, private and state-owned companies, and local residents. While we generally find that the CEIT has proven effective in identifying and rectifying violations of environmental regulations, as an institutional solution it is inefficient and highly-resource intensive, likely to generate unintended governance outcomes in the medium-to-longer run, and has significant social justice implications.
- 2020. The water-energy-food nexus: Bridging the science-policy divide. Current Opinion in Environmental Science and Health 13: 6-10.
Abstract URLAlthough our technical understanding of water–energy–food (WEF) nexus dynamics continues to improve, this knowledge has not yet been translated into effective and implementable policy. My review of the literature suggests that key to bridging the science–policy divide is introducing a political dimension into our understanding of the WEF nexus. By applying insights from the broader area of environmental governance to real-world WEF nexus examples, we see that navigating WEF nexus trade-offs and ensuring the sustainable management of our resources is a ‘wicked’ problem necessarily solved through the political process. By moving beyond an apolitical and positivist conceptualisation of the WEF nexus, we can devise innovative solutions that leverage the contributions of robust science to better manage our WEF resources.
- 2019. Indigenous perceptions of climate anomalies in Malaysian Borneo (with H. Abok, M.M. Bennett, S.D. Fam, F. George, N. Kulathuramaiyer, C.T. Low and T. Zaman). Global Environmental Change 58: 1-11. (Featured in Nature Sustainability as ‘Romanticizing the adaptive capacity of indigenous communities’).
Abstract URLLocal perceptions of climate anomalies influence adaptation behaviour. Specifically, perceptions that are more accurate and homogenous at the community-level are more likely to facilitate the collective action required to adapt to the local effects of climate anomalies experienced by many indigenous communities. We combine primary data on perceptions of climate anomalies from 200 individuals in six Penan villages in Sarawak, Malaysia with instrumental climate data. We find that perceptions of climate anomalies vary substantially in terms of occurrence and magnitude, and do not generally correlate with instrumental climate data. We operationalise the Penan forest sign language (Oroo’) as a measure of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) and find only weak evidence of a systematic statistical association with perceptions of climate anomalies among our sampled respondents. Our findings suggest caution in advancing adaptation strategies in indigenous communities that are predominantly premised on TEK. Instead, our findings suggest that in designing adaptation measures, indigenous communities may benefit by engaging in forums where community members and external stakeholders can come together, share their perceptions and observations of climate change, and reach a collective consensus on the community-level effects of climate change and pathways towards adaptation.
- 2019. The UK summer heatwave of 2018 and public concern over energy security (with S. Larcom and P.W. She). Nature Climate Change 9: 370-373.
Abstract URLThe UK summer heatwave of 2018 led to changes in consumer behaviour, including large increases in electricity demand due to increased use and intensity of refrigeration and air-conditioning devices. Although the United Kingdom experienced its equal hottest summer on record, the extreme temperatures were concentrated in the south and east of England. Here we exploit the regional variation to test for the effect of experiencing extreme temperatures on perceptions of resource security and on related pro-environmental behaviour. We analyse data from 2,189 individuals across the UK over a 7 day period and use a difference-in-differences estimation to compare responses of individuals in regions subjected to extreme temperatures with those of individuals in regions that were not subjected to extreme temperatures. We show that exposure to extreme temperatures had a large and statistically significant effect on perceptions of energy security but not on stated pro-environmental behaviour. We find less evidence that extreme temperatures had an effect on perceptions of food and water security.
- 2019. Scaling the nexus: Towards integrated frameworks for analysing water, energy and food (with S. McGrane, M. Acuto, F. Artioli, P.Y. Chen, R. Comber, J. Cottee, G. Farr-Wharton, N. Green, A. Helfgott, S. Larcom, J. McCann, P. O’Reilly, G. Salmoral, M. Scott, L. Todman and X. Yan). The Geographical Journal. 185(4): 419-431.
Abstract URLThe emergence of the water–energy–food (WEF) nexus has resulted in changes to the way we perceive our natural resources. Stressors such as climate change and population growth have highlighted the fragility of our WEF systems, necessitating integrated solutions across multiple scales. While a number of frameworks and analytical tools have been developed since 2011, a comprehensive WEF nexus tool remains elusive, hindered in part by our limited data and understanding of the interdependencies and connections across the WEF systems. To achieve this, the community of academics, practitioners and policy‐makers invested in WEF nexus research are addressing several critical areas that currently remain as barriers. First, the plurality of scales (e.g., spatial, temporal, institutional, jurisdictional) necessitates a more comprehensive effort to assess interdependencies between water, energy and food, from household to institutional and national levels. Second, and closely related to scale, a lack of available data often hinders our ability to quantify physical stocks and flows of resources. Overcoming these barriers necessitates engaging multiple stakeholders, and using experiences and local insights to better understand nexus dynamics in particular locations or scenarios, and we exemplify this with the inclusion of a UK‐based case study on exploring the nexus in a particular geographical area. We elucidate many challenges that have arisen across nexus research, including the impact of multiple scales in operation, and concomitantly, what impact these scales have on data accessibility. We assess some of the critical frameworks and tools that are applied by nexus researchers and articulate some of the steps required to develop from nexus thinking to an operationalisable concept, with a consistent focus on scale and data availability.
- 2019. Do voluntary commons associations deliver sustainable grazing outcomes? An empirical study of England (with S. Larcom). Environmental and Resource Economics 73(1): 51-74.
Abstract URLIn 1965, the Commons Registration Act came into force in England and Wales. The Act led to the removal of the capacity of commoners to regulate the intensity of grazing via traditional legal means. From this policy shock a number of voluntary commons associations were formed. These voluntary groups relied on their members to agree upon how the commons should be managed. Using two-stage least squares regression analysis we find that commons governed by these associations are much more likely to produce sustainable grazing outcomes. These results are robust to the existence of a variety of controls, including overlapping institutional frameworks. Importantly, they highlight the ability of voluntary environmental organisations to deliver sustainable environmental outcomes.
- 2019. Catching up with the ‘Core’: The nature of the agricultural machinery sector and challenges for Chinese manufacturers (with M.T. Safdar). Journal of Development Studies 56(7): 1349-1366.
Abstract URLThe current era of globalisation has been accompanied by China’s rise as a major economic actor. Chinese firms are expanding their presence globally and are seeking to ‘catch-up’ with firms in developed countries across different sectors. This paper uses China’s agricultural machinery sector as a vehicle to examine the challenges faced by firms from developing countries in their effort to catch-up with ‘core firms’. Chinese firms operating in the sector struggle to compete with a small number of dominant core firms based in developed countries. These core firms are sectoral leaders with a global presence. They are continuously strengthening their competitive advantage using diverse strategies, including: investing in R&D, focused acquisitions and developing relationships with actors internal and external to agriculture. The challenge of catching-up for Chinese firms in the sector has further increased as developed countries seek to protect firms in strategic sectors like agriculture. By examining the changing nature of the agricultural machinery sector, and the role of core firms, the paper highlights the substantial barriers facing Chinese firms in their efforts to catch-up. This paper has important implications, as it shows that even if firms from developing countries enjoy state-support, they will increasingly struggle to catch-up.
- 2018. Achieving universal energy access and rural development through smart villages (with C. Canales Holzeis, S. Fennell, B. Heap, J. Holmes, M. Hurley Depret, B. Jones and M.T. Safdar). Energy for Sustainable Development 43: 139-142.
Abstract URLWith just 12 years to go to 2030, progress in providing universal energy access and improving rural development outcomes in many rural areas has been too slow if the Sustainable Development Goals are to be met. Over a three-year period, the Smart Villages Initiative gathered evidence and views from over 1000 stakeholders from 70 countries to identify the framework conditions necessary for the provision of energy services to rural communities and to ensure that energy access translates into improved rural development outcomes. This short communication provides an overview of the key findings of this process and suggests a number of “bottom-up” insights and recommendations. These include taking an integrated approach to rural development, building markets to leverage the private sector, creating supportive, coherent and flexible policy frameworks at the national-level; and a re-think of financing mechanisms.
- 2017. Indigenous community preferences for electricity services: Evidence from a choice experiment in Sarawak, Malaysia (with C. Canales Holzeis, F. George and T. Zaman). Energy Policy 108: 102-110.
- 2017. Regulating the water-energy-food nexus: Interdependencies, transaction costs and procedural justice (with S. Larcom). Environmental Science and Policy 72: 55-64.
Abstract URLThere have been calls for an overhaul of regulatory and governance frameworks to incorporate the implications of the water-energy-food nexus. We map one small component of the regulatory space of the nexus and highlight its immense complexity. We draw on insights from the economics and socio-legal literatures to show that a decentralised approach to regulation based upon procedural justice can enable the trade-offs of the nexus to be considered and addressed. We use a nexus case study of micro hydro-electricity generation in Dartmoor National Park in England to show that when we take into account interactions between state and non-state regulation, the economic concepts of interdependencies and transaction costs, and a recognition that regulation of the nexus is a process involving decisions of procedural justice, some existing regulatory frameworks are already well-equipped to deal with the implications of nexus analysis.
- 2016. Insights from an energy poor Rwandan village (with C. Canales Holzeis, B. Jones and M.T. Safdar). Energy for Sustainable Development 32: 121-129.
Abstract URLWe used primary data collected from 163 households in an off-grid Rwandan village to provide insights into energy poverty at the household-level. Informed by the rural livelihoods literature, we constructed a novel asset- and income-based index to disaggregate our results by socio-economic status. We also employed microeconometric techniques to investigate the determinants of household willingness-to-pay for electricity. We found statistically significant differences between households of different socio-economic status for expenditure on lighting and other electricity services, willingness-to-pay for electricity, income-generating activities and food security. Overall, our findings suggest that initiatives aiming to end energy poverty and catalyze rural development should: (1) recognize the different potential impacts of policies on households of different socio-economic status; (2) be sensitive to energy stacking behavior; (3) take a holistic approach to rural development; (4) and ensure that households are able to access modern energy through flexible payment schemes and equitable and sustained improvements in income.
- 2016. Precolonial institutions and deforestation in Africa (with S. Larcom et A. Zabala) Land Use Policy 51: 150-161.
Abstract URLWe find that local institutions inherited from the precolonial era continue to play an important role in natural resource governance in Africa. Using satellite image data, we find a significant and robust relationship between deforestation and precolonial succession rules of local leaders (local chiefs). In particular, we find that those precolonial areas where local leaders were appointed by ‘social standing’ have higher rates of deforestation compared to the base case of hereditary rule and where local leaders were appointed from above (by paramount chiefs). While the transmission mechanisms behind these results are complex, we suggest that areas where local leaders were appointed by social standing are more likely to have poorer institutions governing local leadership and forest management.
- 2014. Rural electrification and development in South Korea. Energy for Sustainable Development 23: 179-187.
Abstract URLIn fifteen years, South Korea went from providing only 12% of rural households with electricity to providing 98% of rural households with electricity for lighting and productive uses. This paper provides an analysis of rural electrification and development in South Korea from 1965 to 1979 and finds that rural electrification contributed to a significant increase in rural household income levels and improved the quality of life in villages substantially. At the same time, rural electrification did not benefit the poorest quartile of rural households, increased economic and social inequality, led to a significant increase in household debt, and accelerated migration to urban areas. Central to the South Korean electrification experience was a top-down and a bottom-up approach that balanced local control and participation with central government control. This approach was crucial in overcoming many of the issues that continue to be found today in both grid-based and off-grid approaches to electrification.
- 2014. The role of state institutions in non-timber forest product commercialisation: A case study of Tricholoma matsutake in South Korea. International Forestry Review 16: 1-13.
Abstract URLTwo major barriers to non-timber forest product (NTFP) commercialization are a thin market structure and ensuring long-term supply. There is a growing literature suggesting potential solutions to address these two issues. The majority of these solutions, however, marginalize the role of state institutions in favour of other institutional arrangements. This study used the example of (S. Ito and S. Imai) Singer commercialisation in South Korea to show that state institutions can play a leading role in addressing the thin market structure and ensuring long-term supply. Specifically, the Korea Forest Service (KFS) and National Forestry Cooperatives Federation (NFCF) addressed the thin market structure through the provision of a supply channel, grading system, price-setting mechanism and guidelines for transportation. In order to help ensure long-term supply, the KFS and NFCF support and undertake forest management activities. This case study shows that state institutions should be seriously considered along with other institutional solutions when tackling barriers to NTFP commercialisation.
- 2014. Community-based management of Tricholoma matsutake: A case study of South Korean mountain villages. International Journal of the Commons 8: 134-154.
- 2013. The economic contribution of non-timber forest products to South Korean mountain villager livelihoods. Forests, Trees and Livelihoods 22: 156-169.
Abstract URLSince 1995, the Korea Forest Service has supported the commercialisation of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) as a means to improve the livelihoods of mountain villagers. There is, however, very little data at the household-level concerning the economic contribution of NTFPs to mountain villager livelihoods. This study uses village-level and household-level data collected from nine mountain villages in Gangwon and North Gyeongsang provinces to (1) reveal the economic contribution of NTFPs to mountain villager livelihoods and (2) analyse the reasons for differing degrees of household reliance on NTFPs. Data show that the mean contribution of NTFPs to households is 4.85% of household revenue. However, clustering households by share of NTFP revenue shows that the mean contribution of NTFPs for the tertile of households with the highest share of NTFP revenue is 21.53% of household revenue. Data suggest a positive correlation between household revenue and NTFP revenue. Poorer households are the most reliant on NTFPs and tend to generate the majority of their NTFP revenue from cultivated NTFPs. A discrete choice model informed by the sustainable livelihoods framework and estimated using a multinomial logit regression suggests that contextual factors and institutions have a stronger effect on a household's degree of reliance on NTFPs than assets. Findings suggest that policies supporting NTFP commercialisation should actively target poorer households and take into account each village's contextual factors and institutions.