UCL Institute for Global Prosperity


Global prize for UCL ecological economics professor

19 June 2024

Professor Robert Costanza (UCL Institute for Global Prosperity) has been awarded the prestigious Blue Planet Prize for his work studying the economic importance of intact natural ecosystems on society.

Headshot of Professor Robert Costanza. He wears a blue shirt and is in front of a green backdrop

The international prize is given for scientific research or applications of science that contribute to solving global environmental problems.

Professor Costanza’s transdisciplinary work combines ecology, economics, sociology, systems modelling, environmental policy, and energy analysis. His research aims to understand and measure the economic benefits of conserving and restoring the natural environment and the ecosystem services it provides in the face of escalating climate change and other human-induced impacts. This understanding has helped to motivate conserving and restoring natural ecosystems by quantifying their benefits to humanity.

Professor Costanza also co-founded the International Society for Ecological Economics. The society brings together scholars, professionals, and activists to encourage education, research, policy, and social action to bring about an equitable and ecologically sustainable society with respect for biological and cultural diversity, and the rights of people and the rest of nature.

Professor Costanza said: “I’m honoured to receive this award for my work. Over the years I have sought to explore how much humanity relies on the services of natural ecosystems and demonstrate the fundamental importance of protecting the Earth’s ecosystems. I hope that this award helps to highlight the importance of combatting climate change and biodiversity loss together. Doing so can lead to an economy that is focused on inclusive and sustainable wellbeing for the whole system – humans embedded in the rest of nature.”

Established in 1992 by the Asahi Glass Foundation in Japan, the aim of the Blue Planet Prize is to encourage efforts to conserve and restore Earth’s fragile environment. The award’s name was inspired by the first person in space, Yuri Gagarin, who remarked “the Earth is blue” when he first saw the planet from orbit.

Past notable laureates have included: Dr James E. Lovelock of Oxford University who developed sensors to detect sparse but harmful pollutants in the atmosphere and formulated the Gaia hypothesis of earth science; Dr Robert Watson at DEFRA, former chair of the IPCC and who led the team that discovered the hole in Earth’s ozone layer; Dr James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies who predicted the severity of climate change and an early advocate for action to mitigate it; and Professor Herman Daly of the University of Maryland, who together with Professor Costanza co-founded the International Society for Ecological Economics.

Professor Geraint Rees, UCL Vice-Provost (Research, Innovation & Global Engagement) said: “I want to congratulate Professor Costanza for this tremendous honour, and for his valuable work demonstrating the immense importance of protecting the natural environment. This kind of research reflects the core values of UCL as a leader in both interdisciplinary research and sustainability.”

Professor Henrietta Moore, Director of the Institute of Global Prosperity, said: “Many congratulations to Professor Robert Costanza on this wonderful prize in recognition of his important contribution to the sustainability of our planet. His work demonstrates the unique insights that can be gleaned by working across disciplines. This is a tremendous accomplishment, and exemplifies the kind of important and impact driven work that the Institute for Global Prosperity cultivates and delivers.”

Toshihiro Tanuma, Director of Commendation for the Blue Planet Prize at the Asahi Glass Foundation, said: “We are especially honoured to recognize Professor Robert Costanza of UCL, an American national. This award reflects the international community's commitment to addressing environmental challenges, and we hope Professor Costanza's recognition will inspire young people around the world to pursue careers in environmental research and activities.”

Professor Costanza will receive the award at a week-long ceremony in Tokyo in October where he’ll receive a certificate of merit, a commemorative trophy, and $500,000 (£400,490) in prize money.


Media Contact

Mike Lucibella

  • E: m.lucibella [at] ucl.ac.uk