In IELTS writing task 2, it is quite common to be asked about issues relating to the environment, the economy, and nations. Whilst you do not need to be an expert on any of this, you should be able to present coherent and well-considered views in clear English.

Today, I want to show you a task 2 question and then discuss how to answer it effectively. I will cover issues such as generating ideas, formatting the essay, and picking the right language to use. I will also include my own sample band 9 answer.

Analysing the Question

Here is the question for today:

Some people believe that it is possible for a country to be economically successful and have a clean environment. Others argue that these two aims are not compatible.

Discuss both views and give your opinion.

First of all, let’s note the question type: “Discuss both views and give your opinion.” It is essential to understand that so that we can begin to formulate a good answer.

Next, we should consider this question: What are “both views”? Well, they are simply:

  1. A country can be economically successful and have a clean environment.
  2. A country cannot be economically successful and have a clean environment.

We need to discuss both of these (ie don’t ignore one) and then give our own opinion. Here, you need to strike a balance: your opinion should be consistent throughout the essay, yet it should not stop you from talking about both sides of the issue.

Let’s discuss how to do that in the next section.

Planning a Good Answer

Now that we understand the question, we can begin to plan our answer. I strongly recommend that you do this before writing any IELTS essay or else you may quickly go off-topic.

I like to keep my structures simple and straightforward so that they are as effective as possible. As such, my essay would be structured in this way:

IntroductionExplain the topic
Give essay overview, inc. my opinion
Body paragraph #1Show how it is difficult for countries to develop without destroying their environment
Body paragraph #2Show how some countries have managed to develop without destroying their environment
ConclusionSummarise and reaffirm my opinion

That is a very basic overview of my essay, but you can definitely go into more detail. For example, I might expand the planning phase for my body paragraphs:

Body paragraph #1It appears on the surface that environmental destruction is inevitable
Making money is easier when you use up natural resources
Example: China and its smog
Body paragraph #2However, other countries have both economic and environmental success
We just need to value the environment to some extent to find a balance
A good environment can even generate revenue – ie Thailand and its tourism

The best thing about planning your essay in this way is that you can begin writing and then expand logically upon each idea without going off-topic. This is important because it is natural for the human brain to follow a stream-of-consciousness process that often takes it to places that are not very logical. This can be a big problem in your IELTS essays.

Here’s a video about logically developing your paragraphs.

Another Note on Structure

It is worth highlighting here the fact that I started with the viewpoint that I did not support. I did this because it allows me to raise those ideas in one paragraph (fully explaining them in order to fulfil that requirement) but then refute them in the next paragraph.

I find that this is both more logical for the reader and also easier for the writer, so it’s a win-win situation! When it comes to maintaining a consistent position throughout, it can often seem like a tough challenge, but with the right structure and language it is actually not very hard.


This question ties together three broad IELTS topics: countries, economies, and the environment. Actually, countries and economies are not really full topics but they are certainly areas that often arise in IELTS.

As such, I would advise being familiar with vocabulary relating to these topics. You can easily learn that by reading articles and watching videos about these things. (Example: Here’s an article about climate change and the British economy.) However, for now I will include some vocabulary that I will use in my own sample answer (below).

Economic progressA term for how far a country has come in economic termsIt is easier to measure economic progress than other, more important factors like social harmony and environmental health.
At the expense ofWhen one thing is gained and another lostThey won the game but at the expense of their best player, who was badly injured.
UnavoidableWhen something cannot be stoppedIt seems unavoidable that we will now face the dire consequences of our carbon emissions.
LoggingCutting down treesIn the tropics, logging is a massive threat to wildlife and it also threatens the health of the whole world because those trees used to produce oxygen.
AnnihilatedTo completely destroyHumans have annihilated most of the world’s great wildernesses.
SmogA cloud of pollutionIn China, smog is a part of everyday life, so people just call it “haze” to pretend that it is natural.
The natural worldAll of the world that is not man-madeDespite the efforts of some, it seems that the natural world will be completely destroyed by greedy humans.
CommodifiedWhen a certain financial value is placed upon somethingPerversely, in order to protect nature, it needs to be commodified because otherwise humans will find little reason not to destroy it.
SacrificeVerb or noun – meaning to give something up to protect something elseAt this stage, people all need to make sacrifices in order to save the planet.
Natural resourcesThings that can be used but which occur naturally, such as wood or coalA country must use its natural resources responsibly because often they cannot be replaced.
PledgePromiseThe president pledged to increase the budget for protecting marine ecosystems.

You can learn specific environment vocabulary here.

Now let’s see how these words and phrases were used in my model essay.

Sample Band 9 Answer

Around the world, economic progress has often come at the expense of the environment, and many people believe that this is inevitable. It is, for sure, a complex issue, and avoiding environmental damage is exceedingly difficult. This essay will look at both sides but argue that it is possible.

Looking at the world, it sometimes appears unavoidable that countries grow rich by sacrificing their environment. After all, the easiest way to make money or develop infrastructure is to utilise your natural resources, and this often means logging or mining. Countries like China, whose economy is growing at a staggering rate, have also annihilated their landscape at unprecedented rates, creating wealthy societies but very unhealthy environments. Beijing may now be a rich city, but it often enveloped in thick smog, and the natural landscape has been utterly devastated.

Yet one can look at developed countries like Australia, Canada, and New Zealand to see that success does not have to come at the price of the environment. It is possible to become successful without destroying the natural world and poisoning your air. What it takes is for a value to be placed upon such matters, so that they are not simply commodified or destroyed in the pursuit of more money. Some developing countries, too, are now realising that their country’s natural beauty can even attract tourism and thus generate income, which is one more reason to avoid polluting and logging. Thailand has made efforts to protect its coral reefs and forests by turning away tourists and exchanging a small financial sacrifice for long-term gains.

In conclusion, the easiest way to develop is to abuse your natural resources and pollute the environment, but there are better ways to do it. If a country places a value upon its cleanliness and pledges to respect the health and happiness of its people, it should be able to avoid destroying its environment.

Further Reading

I have more sample essays about the environment here and there are some speaking questions here.