Environmental degradation has emerged as one of the most important issues of the century and has resulted in new approaches to supplement penal laws and environmental protection. Therefore, instruments used for environment protection will be discussed in this article.
Environmental Policy Instruments
Environmental policy is any course of action deliberately taken or not taken in order 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.
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 policies include air and water pollution, waste management, ecosystem management, biodiversity protection and the protection of natural resources, wildlife and endangered species.
Environmental Policy Instruments on the other hand, are tools used to implement environmental policies either by government or established bodies. Governments may use a different types of instruments such as economic incentives and market-based instruments such as taxes and tax exemptions, tradable permits, and fees.
Market-Based Instruments (MBIs) are policy measures that rely on prices and incentives rather than regulations to influence behaviour. These environmental policy instruments can be very effective to encourage compliance with environmental policies so as to protect the environment.
Economic Incentive and Market-Based Instrument
Economic incentive and market-based instrument involve the following measures discussed below.
1. Environmental or Green Taxes
Taxation may be, and has been used as a deterrent to environmental degradation by imposing taxes on environmentally damaging processes, products, as well as consumption patterns.
In addition to these preventive aims, the taxes so raised have been committed to environmental protection activities.
Normally, taxes on a particular industry or product would go to support remedial measures for the element of the environment damaged by the industry or product.
For example, money raised from taking wood products of a particular tree may be used in planting new trees of the same species.
The green taxes is aimed at raising money from polluting activities with the principal objective of putting the sums so raised into environmental protection.
The establishment of an environmental tax on permits, imports and domestic goods are earmarked mostly for the following areas;
Air pollution enforcement and subsidy programs.
Water pollution enforcement and subsidy programs.
Solid waste management/pollution enforcement and subsidy programs.
Protection of public health through enforcement of public health laws, and Land reclamation activities.
2. Tax Relief and Subsidies
Taxation is mainly a government instrument for raising revenue, however taxation may also be used to achieve other objectives such as encouraging or discouraging certain activities or behaviour.
The government can use taxation to support environmental protection by waiving or imposing lower taxes on environmentally friendly technologies or products.
Governments can also induce compliance with environmental standards by providing government subsidies for those who adopt methods of abating pollutants which arise from production or consumption.
3. Polluter Pays Principle
The polluter pays principle refers to a devise of internalizing environmental costs by making those who benefit from the environmentally damaging activity bear the costs of the damage.
The polluter pays principle is implemented through charging polluters for the right to pollute. This may be achieved through a variety of means including taxes and fees on licenses.
Polluter pays taxes are mainly intended to punish the polluter without necessarily using the monies raised for environmental protection activities.
The other method which is increasingly being used to implement the polluter pays principle is the legal imposition of compensatory damages as well as environmental reparation features which hereto have seldom been included in pollution control legislation.
In the near future, compensation and reparation in the form of environmental clean-up are features likely to replace penal sanctions as the main characteristics of environmental law. This in turn will dramatically increase the cost of polluting the environment.
4. Environmental Impact Assessment
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is another environmental legal instrument considered most effective for the achievement of sustainable environmental protection.
It is the requirement that environmental impact assessment shall be undertaken for all proposed development that are likely to have significant adverse impacts on the environment and which are subject to a decision of a competent national authority.
The objective of EIA which is to allow maximization of long-term benefits of development while maintaining the natural resource base. However, the objectives of EIA are broader as they seek to protect the environment in the wider sense, and not just the natural resources.
Thus, an activity which would raise noise levels near a hospital or school or which can affect the human-made environment such as archaeological sites, historic towns, monuments and artifacts or relics, may also be subjected to environmental impact assessment.
Such assessment forms the basis for refusal of permission to undertake a particular activity or grant of permission with conditions necessary to minimize the effect on the environment.
Different countries have adopted different elements of the traditional EIA process, which originated in the U.S.
For example, some countries authorize EIA for all projects, while others limit the process to those which have a certain level of government involvement, such as the requirement of licensing and permitting or the expenditure of funds, and a test of potentially significant environmental impacts.
5. Greener Public Purchasing/Procurement Programs
Another instrument that can enhance environmental protection is the implementation of greener public purchasing/procurement programs.
Greener public procurement means that public purchasers take account of environmental factors when buying products, services or works.
Public purchasers are often under the impression that they already apply environmental criteria when purchasing. Certain categories of purchase are more suitable for greening than others.
Professional services such as advertising, general management, research and auditing services seldom contain environmental criteria whereas furniture construction, equipment for IT, engineering and other office items often do.
The following product groups has been identified as suitable for ‘greening’ in the framework of green public procurement, based on the financial and environmental impact and the availability of ‘environmental friendly’ products in the market place. These include:
Cleaning products and services;
Chemical products, rubber, plastic;
Food products and beverages,
Services e.g. architectural, construction, installation and related consultancy services;
Sewage and refuse disposal services;
Sanitation and environmental services;
Office machinery (computers/monitors/printers/copiers);
Construction work and construction products e.g. heating/cooling/lighting appliances;
Furniture and other manufactured goods;
Paper, printed matter, printing services;
Transport and communication services.
Note that, if all public authorities were to purchase green electricity in place of conventionally generated electricity, the equivalent of over 61 million tons of CO2, would be saved each year.
This figure equates to approximately 18% of EU’s commitment under the Kyoto Protocol to reduce CO2 equivalent emissions by 340 million tons between 2008-2012.
6. Voluntary Measures
Voluntary measures such as bilateral agreements between the government and businesses, industry or private firms are other instruments used in environmental policy to ensure environmental protection.
In conclusion, policy Instruments are important in order to ensure environmental protection. Human beings, if not controlled, would abstract natural resources up to the point where the system would no longer be sustainable.
As a result, each government would explore the instrument that would be most beneficial to reducing the rate of environmental degradation.
Environmental policy instrument is one of the keys to environmental protection are implemented either by government or established bodies. These could be economic incentives and market-based instrument that involve environmental or green taxes, tax relief and subsidies, and polluter pays principles.
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a legal instrument considered most effective for the achievement of sustainable environmental protection especially for new development.
Another vital instrument of environmental protection learnt again are the greener public purchasing/procurement programs and voluntary measures, such as bilateral agreements negotiated between the government and private organizations.