Environmental and ecological transition policies | PETE

Certificate of Advanced Studies (CAS)

The topic

There is a growing awareness of the finiteness of Earth’s natural resources and the planetary boundaries that will limit future human activities. Over the last 30 years, there has been a profound re-evaluation of the public policies governing not only nature conservation, the environment and natural resources but also, more broadly, all of the public policies touching on the exploitation of those resources.

There are many findings and reports on how critical the situations are in numerous domains of human interaction with their environment—climate, biodiversity, landscapes, energy, resource extraction, diverse polluted emissions (e.g. water, air, soil), waste, et cetera. They all call for fundamental structural transformations and the overhaul of the organisation and functioning of numerous economic sectors, as well as the public policies and legal property regimes that regulate them.

Within the framework of this CAS, the “ecological transition” is fundamentally envisaged as a dual process: (1) a paradigm shift in environmental policies (from the comprehensive emissions limitation paradigm to the sustainable resource management and allocation paradigm); and (2) the greening of policies regarding the exploitation of environmental resources (energy, land-use planning, mobility, agriculture, industry, et cetera).

This course will address the principal issues relating to the ecological transition using policy analysis tools from the fields of public policy and property rights.

  • Introduce participants to the tools necessary for environmental policy analysis and for other public policies involved in the ecological transition (energy, transport and land-use planning policies).
  • Critically assess the latest knowledge about the design, functioning and effects of the different public policies associated with sustainability and the ecological transition.
  • Provide an overview of the different contemporary debates that have developed within the context of the emerging framework supporting sustainability, and then, more recently, within the context of the ecological transition: sustainable resource management, the struggle against climate change, the energy transition, urban densification, the circular economy, sustainable mobility, et cetera.
  • Discuss avenues for reflection and the potential solutions resulting from contemporary debates in order to think about the nuts and bolts of the ecological transition in a realistic and transversal manner.
Target audience
  • Students studying for the MAS in Public Administration (MPA).
  • Political and administrative leaders or officials involved in the policy domains of the environment, nature conservation, landscapes and biodiversity, land-use planning, energy, transport and mobility, agriculture or economic development.
  • Professionals working in the domains of the environment, land-use planning, energy and mobility.
  • Representatives of political parties, interest groups, think tanks and NGOs working in these domains.
  • Researchers and PhD students.
Speakers (subject to modifications)
Name Function
Philippe Thalmann Professor of Environmental Economics, EPFL
Valérie Boisvert Professor of Environmental Economics, UNIL
Jean-David Gerber Professor of Political Urbanism and Sustainable Spatial Development, University of Bern
Augustin Fragnière Deputy Director, Competence Centre in Sustainability, UNIL
Thierry Largey Professor of Public Law, UNIL
Nils Moussu Scientific officer, Sanu Durabilitas Foundation, Bienne
Rémi Schweizer Cantonal climate commissioner for the Canton of Vaud
Julia Steinberger Professor of Ecological Economics, UNIL
Adèle Thorens Member of the Council of States for the Canton of Vaud
A representative of Climate Alliance Switzerland
A representative of ALPIQ and/or Swissolar
Programme (subject to modifications)

I. Theory and concepts

  1. Environmental policy analysis: principles, concepts, design, tools and assessment
  2. Land-use planning policy analysis: principles, concepts, design, tools and assessment
  3. Sustainability, the ecological transition and institutional resource regimes: approaches, definitions and concepts.

II. Sectoral approaches

  1. Sustainable land-use planning: the struggle against urban sprawl and the challenges of densification
  2. Integrated water resources management
  3. Climate policy 1—From international to local policy
  4. Climate policy 2—Policy instruments

III. Cross-cutting themes

  1. Landscape conservation and managing biodiversity and genetic resources
  2. Urban policy: coordinating land-use planning and transport/mobility
  3. The energy transition
  4. Waste and the circular economy
  5. Presentations of students’ coursework
Teaching methods

This CAS is organised around a combination of theoretical and conceptual presentations, case studies, lectures by experts and practitioners, and group activities that will enable students to apply the analytical tools and knowledge presented to them within the framework of their course.

Students’ coursework, required for the validation of the CAS, will be made up of a contextualised compilation of the different group activities carried out on class days.


Da Cunha, A., Knoepfel, P., Leresche, J.-Ph., Nahrath, S. (Ed.). (2005). Les enjeux du développement urbain durable. Forme urbaine, gestion des ressources et gouvernance. Lausanne: Presses Polytechniques et Universitaires Romandes.

Gerber, J.-D., Knoepfel, P., Nahrath, S., Varone F. (2009). Institutional Resource Regimes: Towards sustainability through the combination of property-rights theory and policy analysis. Ecological Economics, 68(3), 798-809.

Knoepfel, P., Nahrath, S., Savary, J., Varone, F. (2010). Analyse des politiques suisses de l'environnement. Zürich/Chur: Ruegger Verlag.

Ingold, K., Nahrath, S. (2022). Politiques environnementales et d’aménagement du territoire. In Y. Papadopoulos, Sciarini, P., Vatter, A., Häusermann, S., Emmenegger, P., Fossati, F. (Ed.), Handbuch der Schweizer Politik - Manuel de la politique suisse (pp. 835-856). Zürich: NZZ Libro.

Practical information and Registration

Course Manager

Prof. Stéphane Nahrath

Dates, time and place

Every Wednesday from 20 September to 20 December 2023 (except 27 September and 25 October), from 9.15 a.m. to 4.15 p.m. in the IDHEAP building.

Main teaching language


Registration fees

CHF 3,900 for the entire course (including all documentation), which should be paid on receipt of the invoice, and by the start of the course at the latest.

A discount of 5%, up to a maximum of CHF 500 per course, is available to any IDHEAP alumni—holding an MPA, DAS or CEMAP, an IDHEAP PhD or a Master’s in PMP—who wish to follow a CAS course or a Seminar for Specialists and Executives organised by IDHEAP. This reduction does not apply to participants in the DAS who subsequently wish to follow the MPA course.

Any decision to withdraw from the course must be made in writing. If withdrawal from the course is announced between 21 and 10 days prior to its commencement, 50% of the registration fee will remain due. If the withdrawal is announced less than 10 days before its commencement, the entire registration fee will be due.

Conditions of admission

This course is open to anyone holding a university degree or with professional experience judged to be equivalent. See the Regulations of the CAS in Public Administration (in French).

Registration deadline

To be confirmed

I want to register


The autumn 2023 session is closed.

The next session will take place in 2025.

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Course Manager
Prof. Stéphane Nahrath
+41 21 692 69 40


Studies Secretariat
+41 21 692 69 17

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Tel. +41 21 692 68 00
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