Environmental Policies and Regulation
November 20, 2012
The Role of Government and Politics
Environmental problems=political problems
Environmental protection and sustainable development require diverse actions from
individuals and institutions
Approaches like recycling, energy efficiency, pollution prevention, all require
Democracy, Politics, Environmental Policy
Public policies fill gap between millions of individual actions
Establish limits on choices, provide incentives
Democratic politics is rarely easy, always filled with conflict
Role of citizens?
Lack of information
Response to required changes in lifestyles?
-public policy establishes limits by providing incentives or regulations
-public policy done in a socially progressive way, socially acceptable way
-main goal of public policy
-democratic decision makingcrucial in making successful environmental policy
-democracy is messywe all have different viewpoints
-each of us have different interests, viewpoints, ethical standpoints
-how do we reach consensus?
-democracy seems to be a giant mess of individual interest trying to reach
-e.g. science vs. politics: people have different viewpoints
-democracy seen as vital institution trying to give people equal voice and equal
-but hardcore environmentalists question democracy: whether problems we face
in environment are so great that it requires immediate action and cannot wait for democracy to
-if we have continued public involvement (or facade), it can take years, decades,
centuries to solve the problems head on
-as we move into 21 century, people think whether democracy is the right way to manage the
-governments actually going to lay the groundwork that will fundamentally change the
lifestyle of the people?
-there are many people that say that no amount of government or regulation or economy or
environment will get into the heart of the problem
-needs restructuring of lifestyle -conventional politics won’t work
-democratic processes unable to deal with problem
-environmental awareness has been rising since the 1960s
-continue to do so
Over generations, we are becoming more attuned and aware of the changes around us
-we recognize the changes we need to make to make a difference
Public Policy Responses
Public Policy: “a course of government action in response to social problems; what governments
do about these problems.”
Environmental policy: diverse collection of statutes, regulations, court precedents.
- Both what governments do and do not do.
-government is crucial
-reflection of collective decision-making: democracy
-if we make collective decision to pursue certain political objective, democracy is a tool to get us
-Canadian environmental policyall things that govern the nation: it’s constantly shifted,
changed, overthrown by attitudes and beliefs
-environmental policy: not just what a government does
-*it can be something that government don’t do*
-it can promote something against environment..?
-by choosing not to pursue a specific type of issue, it can shift to non-governemntal actors
-it can change the shape of the issue
-government doesn’t have overarching environmental issue
-leaving other actors to shape the issues of NorthAmerica
-leaves decisions on what energy we have or will have in the hands of individuals
-idea of public policy being reflection of what governments do and don’t do: e.g. Canada’s
decision to pull out of Kyoto
-by signing it, ratifying it, failing to live up to its obligation: Canada sending an important
message out in the world and to the country of the nation’s position on climate change
-reflection of what the government choose to ignore
Different sets of tools to employ
Regulation vs. Incentive-based approaches
-if we are going to manage the environment, we will need government
-government: essential component of environmental management
-federal government, state government, municipal government
-governments have different tools in terms of policy making -regulations or incentives
-taxation or subsidies
-funding for research in a particular issue
-dissemination of information (education tools), purchasing of goods by
government, incubation of public and private partnerships
-ubiquitous tool: regulation
-regulation seen to be most advantageous in creating environmental sustainability
-a little bit too old school and ineffective today
-command and control aspect is dwindling away now
-we have hybrid models of combining control and incentives now
-hybrid levels in terms of which government is in charge; federal government
working together with provincial government
-turning to technology and research
-coming up with solutions to try to solve problems
-governments have huge purchasing power
-if government decided to buy only hybrid vehicles, it would have a huge impact on the
levels of emissions that the country is producing/emitting
Measuring Public Policy
How do we measure/determine “success?”
What solutions hold the greatest promise?
How do we assess the deluge of information?
-there has to be other considerations to measure public policy
-the role of justice
-for some people, social justice is integral
-environmental policies marginalize groups
-distribution of environmental costs is disproportionately....
-poor neighbourhoods and neighbourhood slums: relate back to environmental justice
-does it deal with systemic inequality?
-when governments look at government policy, they have to look at policy in question
-what constitutes water policy? Water security?
-do they meet the targets they specify? Are there targets at all?
-environment is incredibly complex
-overwhelming sense of daily information
-seems like we have too much information; other hand, there isn’t enough information to
satisfy all the questions we have
-all of these things factor in our measurement of policy Making Environmental Policy
-how do governments make public policy related to environment?
-e.g. Case study: clean energy and security act
-passed in US in 2009
-June 2009: US House of Representatives voting 219-212 to pass landmark legislation on
-Obama: bold and necessary; aggressively combat climate change and energy use and
therefore minimize carbon footprint
-this passage of bill was essenti