Environmental policy
Environmental policy is any [course of] action deliberately taken [or not taken] to manage human activities with a view to prevent, reduce, or mitigate harmful effects on nature and natural resources, and ensuring that man-made changes to the environment do not have harmful effects on humans.


It is useful to consider that environmental policy comprises two major terms: environment
Natural environment
The natural environment encompasses all living and non-living things occurring naturally on Earth or some region thereof. It is an environment that encompasses the interaction of all living species....

 and policy
A policy is typically described as a principle or rule to guide decisions and achieve rational outcome. The term is not normally used to denote what is actually done, this is normally referred to as either procedure or protocol...

. Environment primarily refers to the ecological dimension (ecosystems), but can also take account of social dimension (quality of life) and an economic dimension (resource management). Policy can be defined as a "course of action or principle adopted or proposed by a government, party, business or individual". Thus, environmental policy focuses on problems arising from human impact on the environment, which retroacts onto human society by having a (negative) impact on human values such as good health or the 'clean and green' environment.

Environmental issues generally addressed by environmental policy include (but are not limited to) air
Air pollution
Air pollution is the introduction of chemicals, particulate matter, or biological materials that cause harm or discomfort to humans or other living organisms, or cause damage to the natural environment or built environment, into the atmosphere....

 and water pollution
Water pollution
Water pollution is the contamination of water bodies . Water pollution occurs when pollutants are discharged directly or indirectly into water bodies without adequate treatment to remove harmful compounds....

, waste management
Waste management
Waste management is the collection, transport, processing or disposal,managing and monitoring of waste materials. The term usually relates to materials produced by human activity, and the process is generally undertaken to reduce their effect on health, the environment or aesthetics...

, ecosystem
An ecosystem is a biological environment consisting of all the organisms living in a particular area, as well as all the nonliving , physical components of the environment with which the organisms interact, such as air, soil, water and sunlight....

 management, biodiversity
Biodiversity is the degree of variation of life forms within a given ecosystem, biome, or an entire planet. Biodiversity is a measure of the health of ecosystems. Biodiversity is in part a function of climate. In terrestrial habitats, tropical regions are typically rich whereas polar regions...

 protection, and the protection of natural resource
Natural resource
Natural resources occur naturally within environments that exist relatively undisturbed by mankind, in a natural form. A natural resource is often characterized by amounts of biodiversity and geodiversity existent in various ecosystems....

s, wildlife
Wildlife includes all non-domesticated plants, animals and other organisms. Domesticating wild plant and animal species for human benefit has occurred many times all over the planet, and has a major impact on the environment, both positive and negative....

 and endangered species
Endangered species
An endangered species is a population of organisms which is at risk of becoming extinct because it is either few in numbers, or threatened by changing environmental or predation parameters...

. Relatively recently, environmental policy has also attended to the communication of environmental issues.


The rationale for governmental involvement in the environment is market failure
Market failure
Market failure is a concept within economic theory wherein the allocation of goods and services by a free market is not efficient. That is, there exists another conceivable outcome where a market participant may be made better-off without making someone else worse-off...

 in the form of externalities
In economics, an externality is a cost or benefit, not transmitted through prices, incurred by a party who did not agree to the action causing the cost or benefit...

, including the free rider problem
Free rider problem
In economics, collective bargaining, psychology, and political science, a free rider is someone who consumes a resource without paying for it, or pays less than the full cost. The free rider problem is the question of how to limit free riding...

 and the tragedy of the commons
Tragedy of the commons
The tragedy of the commons is a dilemma arising from the situation in which multiple individuals, acting independently and rationally consulting their own self-interest, will ultimately deplete a shared limited resource, even when it is clear that it is not in anyone's long-term interest for this...

. An example of an externality is a factory that engages in water pollution
Water pollution
Water pollution is the contamination of water bodies . Water pollution occurs when pollutants are discharged directly or indirectly into water bodies without adequate treatment to remove harmful compounds....

 in a river. The cost of such action is paid by society-at-large, when they must clean the water before drinking it and is external to the costs of the factory. The free rider problem is when the private marginal cost of taking action to protect the environment is greater than the private marginal benefit, but the social marginal cost is less than the social marginal benefit. The tragedy of the commons is the problem that, because no one person owns the commons, each individual has an incentive to utilize common resources as much as possible. Without governmental involvement, the commons is overused. Examples of tragedies of the common are overfishing
Overfishing occurs when fishing activities reduce fish stocks below an acceptable level. This can occur in any body of water from a pond to the oceans....

 and overgrazing
Overgrazing occurs when plants are exposed to intensive grazing for extended periods of time, or without sufficient recovery periods. It can be caused by either livestock in poorly managed agricultural applications, or by overpopulations of native or non-native wild animals.Overgrazing reduces the...



Environmental policy instruments are tools used by governments to implement their environmental policies. Governments may use a number of different types of instruments. For example, economic incentives and market-based instruments
Market-based instruments
Market-based instruments are policy instruments that use price or other economic variables to provide incentives for polluters to reduce harmful emissions...

 such as taxes and tax exemptions, tradable permits, and fees can be very effective to encourage compliance with environmental policy.

Voluntary measures, such as bilateral agreements negotiated between the government and private firms and commitments made by firms independent of government pressure, are other instruments used in environmental policy. Another instrument is the implementation of greener public purchasing programs.

Often, several instruments are combined in an instrument mix formulated to address a certain environmental problem. Since environmental issues often have many different aspects, several policy instruments may be needed to adequately address each one. Furthermore, instrument mixes may allow firms greater flexibility in finding ways to comply with government policy while reducing the uncertainty in the cost of doing so. However, instrument mixes must be carefully formulated so that the individual measures within them do not undermine each other or create a rigid and cost-ineffective compliance framework. Also, overlapping instruments lead to unnecessary administrative costs, making implementation of environmental policies more costly than necessary In order to help governments realize their environmental policy goals, the OECD Environment Directorate studies and collects data on the efficiency of the environmental instruments governments use to achieve their goals as well as their consequences for other policies. The site www.economicinstruments.com http://www.economicinstruments.com serves as a complementary database detailing countries' experience with the application of instruments for environmental policy.

The current reliance on a market based framework is controversial, however, with many prominent environmentalists arguing that a more radical, overarching, approach is needed than a set of specific initiatives, to deal coherently with the scale of the climate change
Climate change
Climate change is a significant and lasting change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over periods ranging from decades to millions of years. It may be a change in average weather conditions or the distribution of events around that average...

 challenge. For an example of the problems, energy efficiency measures may actually increase energy consumption in the absence of a cap on fossil fuel use, as people might drive more efficient cars further and they might sell better. Thus, for example, Aubrey Meyer calls for a 'framework based market' of contraction and convergence
Contraction and Convergence
Contraction and Convergence is a proposed global framework for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change. Conceived by the Global Commons Institute [GCI] in the early 1990s, the Contraction and Convergence strategy consists of reducing overall emissions of greenhouse gases to a...

 examples of which are ideas such as the recent Cap and Share
Cap and Share
Cap and Share was originally developed by Feasta and is a regulatory and economic framework for controlling the use of fossil fuels in relation to climate stabilisation...

 and 'Sky Trust' proposals.


The 1970s marked the beginning of modern environmental policy making. On January 1, 1970, President Richard Nixon
Richard Nixon
Richard Milhous Nixon was the 37th President of the United States, serving from 1969 to 1974. The only president to resign the office, Nixon had previously served as a US representative and senator from California and as the 36th Vice President of the United States from 1953 to 1961 under...

 signed the National Environmental Policy Act
National Environmental Policy Act
The National Environmental Policy Act is a United States environmental law that established a U.S. national policy promoting the enhancement of the environment and also established the President's Council on Environmental Quality ....

 (NEPA). At the time, Environmental Policy was a bipartisan issue and the efforts of the United States of America helped spark countries around the world to create environmental policies. During this period, legislation was passed to regulate pollutants that go into the air, water tables, and solid waste disposal. President Nixon signed the Clean Air Act
Clean Air Act
A Clean Air Act is one of a number of pieces of legislation relating to the reduction of airborne contaminants, smog and air pollution in general. The use by governments to enforce clean air standards has contributed to an improvement in human health and longer life spans...

 in 1970 which set the United States of America as one of the world leaders in environmental conservation.

Environmental Policy Studies

Given the growing need for trained environmental policy practitioners, graduate school
Graduate school
A graduate school is a school that awards advanced academic degrees with the general requirement that students must have earned a previous undergraduate degree...

s throughout the world have begun to offer specialized professional degrees in environmental policy studies. While there is not a standard curriculum
See also Syllabus.In formal education, a curriculum is the set of courses, and their content, offered at a school or university. As an idea, curriculum stems from the Latin word for race course, referring to the course of deeds and experiences through which children grow to become mature adults...

 for these programs, students typically take courses in policy analysis
Policy analysis
Policy analysis is "determining which of various alternative policies will most achieve a given set of goals in light of the relations between the policies and the goals". However, policy analysis can be divided into two major fields. Analysis of policy is analytical and descriptive—i.e., it...

, environmental science
Environmental science
Environmental science is an interdisciplinary academic field that integrates physical and biological sciences, to the study of the environment, and the solution of environmental problems...

, environmental law
Environmental law
Environmental law is a complex and interlocking body of treaties, conventions, statutes, regulations, and common law that operates to regulate the interaction of humanity and the natural environment, toward the purpose of reducing the impacts of human activity...

 and politics
Environmental politics
Environmental politics is an academic field of study focused on three core components:The study of political theories and ideas related to the environment.The examination of the political parties and environmental social movements....

, ecology
Ecology is the scientific study of the relations that living organisms have with respect to each other and their natural environment. Variables of interest to ecologists include the composition, distribution, amount , number, and changing states of organisms within and among ecosystems...

, energy
In physics, energy is an indirectly observed quantity. It is often understood as the ability a physical system has to do work on other physical systems...

, and natural resource management
Natural resource management
Natural resource management refers to the management of natural resources such as land, water, soil, plants and animals, with a particular focus on how management affects the quality of life for both present and future generations ....

. Graduates of these programs are usually employed by government
Government refers to the legislators, administrators, and arbitrators in the administrative bureaucracy who control a state at a given time, and to the system of government by which they are organized...

s, international organizations, private sector
Private sector
In economics, the private sector is that part of the economy, sometimes referred to as the citizen sector, which is run by private individuals or groups, usually as a means of enterprise for profit, and is not controlled by the state...

, think tanks, universities, and a host of other parties.

Due to lack of standard nomenclature
Nomenclature is a term that applies to either a list of names or terms, or to the system of principles, procedures and terms related to naming - which is the assigning of a word or phrase to a particular object or property...

, institutions use varying names and designations to refer to the environmental policy degrees they award. However, these degrees typically fall in one of four broad categories: Master of Arts
Master of Arts
A Master of Arts is a high academic degree offered at many universities in Europe and the United States.A Master of Arts, Magister Artium, or Magister in Artibus may also refer to:...

 in Environmental Policy, Master of Science
Master of Science
A Master of Science is a postgraduate academic master's degree awarded by universities in many countries. The degree is typically studied for in the sciences including the social sciences.-Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay:...

 in Environmental Policy, Master of Public Administration
Master of Public Administration
The Master of Public Administration is a professional post-graduate degree in Public Administration. The MPA program prepares individuals to serve as managers in the executive arm of local, state/provincial, and federal/national government, and increasingly in nongovernmental organization and...

 in Environmental Policy, or PhD
PHD may refer to:*Ph.D., a doctorate of philosophy*Ph.D. , a 1980s British group*PHD finger, a protein sequence*PHD Mountain Software, an outdoor clothing and equipment company*PhD Docbook renderer, an XML renderer...

 in Environmental Policy. Sometimes, more specific names are used to reflect the particular focus of a degree program. For example, the Monterey Institute of International Studies
Monterey Institute of International Studies
The Monterey Institute of International Studies is a graduate school of Middlebury College, located in Monterey, California, United States...

 uses Master of Arts in International Environmental Policy (MAIEP) to emphasize the international-orientation of its curriculum.

See also

  • Environmental science
    Environmental science
    Environmental science is an interdisciplinary academic field that integrates physical and biological sciences, to the study of the environment, and the solution of environmental problems...

  • Environmental governance
    Environmental governance
    Environmental governance is a concept in political ecology or environmental policy related to defining the elements needed to achieve sustainability. All human activities -- political, social and economic — should be understood and managed as subsets of the environment and ecosystems...

  • Environmental politics
    Environmental politics
    Environmental politics is an academic field of study focused on three core components:The study of political theories and ideas related to the environment.The examination of the political parties and environmental social movements....

  • Environmental Principles and Policies
    Environmental Principles and Policies
    The book Environmental Principles and Policies: An Interdisciplinary Introduction, written by Professor Sharon Beder, examines six key environmental and social principles that have been incorporated into international treaties and national laws...

  • Harris School of Public Policy Studies
    Harris School of Public Policy Studies
    The Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies is the public policy school of the University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois, USA. It is one of the top policy schools in the United States. It is located on the University's main campus in Hyde Park...

  • Tellus Institute
    Tellus Institute
    The Tellus Institute is a non-profit research and policy organization based in Boston, Massachusetts, in the United States. Its mission is to advance the transition to a sustainable, equitable, and humane global civilization. The Tellus Institute was founded in 1976 by Paul Raskin, Richard Rosen,...

  • Monterey Institute of International Studies
    Monterey Institute of International Studies
    The Monterey Institute of International Studies is a graduate school of Middlebury College, located in Monterey, California, United States...

  • Chemical Leasing
    Chemical leasing
    In the chemical industry, chemical leasing is a business model in which the chemical company supplies a substance for a specific service, but retains ownership of the chemical. It is intended to shift the focus from increasing sales volume of chemicals towards a value added approach...

External links

  • Envirowise UK Portal Government funded site offering environmental policy advice
  • Responding to Climate Change Climate Change organisation publishing annually since 2002.
  • Green Policy Canadian organization focused on the collection, analysis and continuous improvement of companies green policies.
  • Resources for the Future A nonprofit and nonpartisan organization that conducts independent research—rooted primarily in economics and other social sciences—on environmental, energy, and natural resource issues.
  • EEA/OECD Environmental Policy and Natural Resource Management database
  • http://emc.com.pk/ In December 1997 Pakistan Environmental Protection Act (PEPA'97) was signed and promulgated by the President of Pakistan. It provides for the protection, conservation, rehabilitation and improvement of the environment, for the prevention and control of pollution, and promotion of sustainable development. PEPA'97 covers nearly all issues from pollution generation to pollution prevention, monitoring to confiscation, compliance to violation, and prosecution to penalization. However, results of this legislation are subjected to virtuous and unadulterated implementation.
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