ENV221 - Environmental Policy (Sept 25).doc

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Department
School of Environment
Course
ENV222H1
Professor
Karen Ing
Semester
Fall

Description
ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY • Policy is a formal set of general plans and principles intended to address problems and guide decision making in specific instances o Public policy is policy made by governments, consisting of laws, regulations, orders, incentives, and practices intended to advance societal welfare o Environmental policy is policy that pertains to human interactions with the environment. It generally aims to regulate resource use or reduce pollution to promote human welfare and/or protect natural systems • Science, ethics, and economics are factors that contribute to an effective policy o Science provides the information and analysis needed to identify and understand environmental problems and devise potential solutions t them o Ethics and economics offer criteria to assess the extent and nature of problems and to help clarify how society might like to address them  Subsidies – tax breaks given to certain individuals or organizations if they help the environment  Taxation – green taxes – taxes on environmentally harmful activities and products  Permit trading – governments create a market in permits for an environmentally harmful activity, and companies, utilities, or industries are allowed to buy, sell, or trade rights to conduct the activity  Eco labelling – serves to tell consumers which brands use environmentally benign processes • Governments interact with individual citizens, organizations, and the private sector in various ways to formulate policy • CASE STUDY: LAKE ERIE o Science - research tells us that agricultural and urban runoff carries potentially harmful pathogens and other contaminants. It also reveals how excess organic material can radically alter conditions for aquatic and marine life, lowering concentrations of dissolved oxygen and increasing mortality for many species. o Economic – decrease in marine life inflicts economic loss by reducing recreation, tourism, and other economic activity related to clean water and coastal areas o Ethics – water pollution poses problems because pollution from upstream users degrades water quality for downstream users ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY ADDRESSES ISSUES OF EQUITY • Economic systems of modern democracies are largely driven by incentives for short term economic gain rather than long-term social and environmental stability • Market capitalism provides little incentive for businesses or individuals to behave in ways that minimize environmental impact or equalize costs and benefits among parties, therefore, government intervention is needed to protect environmental quality and natural resources and to promote equity in people’s use of resources  environmental policy. • Tragedy of commons – a resource held in common that is accessible to all and is unregulated will eventually become overused and degraded o Regulation of use and active management is important (Garrett Hardin) o Challenges: resources on public lands may not be equally accessible to everyone but may instead be more accessible to wealthier or more established resource extraction industries; some traditional and Western societies have devised safeguards against exploitation • Free riders – individuals or organizations who contribute less than others (or none at all), but receive credit/benefits from the sacrifice of others o If there is a significant amount of “free riders” in an environmental program, then the program would collapse o Private voluntary efforts are not very effective and therefore, public policy must be enforced to ensure the compliance of others • Externalities and External costs – harmful impacts that result from market transactions but are borne by people not involved in the transactions (a goal of environmental policy is to ensure that some parties do not use resources in way that harm others) o E.g.: improper waste disposal by factories to rivers to avoid costs decrease fish populations and increase water pollution  downstream users are affected • The fundamental goals of public policy are: o to protect resources o promote equity by eliminating free riders and addressing external costs CANADIAN ENVIRONMENTAL LAW AND POLICY • Influenced greatly by the US because the US was a leader in the early development of national-level environmental laws (was the first to pass the first comprehensive environmental protection law – National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) in 1970) and because of their trading relationship (NAFTA) • Environment Canada was established in 1971, under the Department of the Environment Act • Legal instruments (acts, statues, regulations, agreements, permits) are used to ensure environmental goals are achieved o Acts – laws or statutes proposed and voted on by the Parliament of Canada o Regulations – detailed set of requirements (numerical limits, licensing requirements, performance specifications) established by governments to allow them to enforce and achieve the objectives of environmental acts o Agreements – enforceable or voluntary; goal is
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