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18.1 Overview of the outcomes


This chapter presents a set of conclusions for Part B of the sixth Global Environment Outlook (GEO-6), reached through the findings of the previous chapters about policy effectiveness (Chapters 10-17). It summarizes for policymakers what is known to work best and why, including a synthesized discussion of the limitations of the evidence available to date for policy effectiveness. We also make reference to Part C (Outlooks), which will examine the promising emerging policies for the future.


There is considerable innovation in policy approaches and instruments across all the environmental themes covered by the sixth Global Environment Outlook (GEO-6) (Chapters 12-17). New institutions, policies and policy instruments have been developed and introduced all over the world. Environmental policy innovation takes place not only in Western industrialized countries, but also in emerging and developing economies. Policies are developed that go beyond technical fixes by increasingly addressing social and economic practices.


Environmental policy innovation also takes place to address issues of equity and environmental protection at the same time. Examples of this include the territorial rights for fishing in Chile, or the free basic water allocation in South Africa, both of which are measures to secure access to natural resources for low-income communities while at the same time promoting sustainable management.


Environmental policies aim to reduce emissions and depletion of resources by encouraging behavioural change or limiting the choices of consumers, enterprises and communities. Different modes of intervention are being used: persuasion, economic incentives and regulation.


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There is no single instrument for complex environmental problems, and policy mixes are more effective, often combining different modes of governance that mutually reinforce each other (referred to as ‘hybrid governance’). Combining measures on the demand side, for taxing and labelling environmentally harmful consumption, with measures on the production side, to limit emissions, is one example that can mutually reinforce environmental innovation, and create markets for it.


Environmental policies are also defining the processes that enable and encourage actors to reflect on their environmental performance – environmental impact assessments, planning procedures and environmental management systems, for example.


Chapters 12-17 also show that environmental actors within and beyond governments are being established or strengthened by many environmental policies, showing an unfolding of effects on environmental performance. Environmental policies and institutions do not determine resource use and emissions on their own – there is also the role of policies in sectors such as housing, infrastructure, agriculture, industry, energy, and so on. A further mechanism that promotes effective environmental policy – albeit a difficult one to achieve –lies in the integration of environmental concerns into other sectoral policies.


While policy integration promises to settle conflicts between environmental and other objectives (Nilsson et al. 2012; Runhaar, Driessen and Uittenbroek 2014; Mullally and Dunphy 2015), the analysis in the previous chapters demonstrates that this has rarely been achieved in practice. There is a lack of systematic evidence on how sectors such as agriculture, transport, urban planning and water management can incorporate environmental standards to prevent, reduce or mitigate harmful environmental effects. Changes in policy mixes are often compelled by pressure from different groups and sectors that have opposing stakes on a resource, environmental asset or ecosystem service.


Many countries (and some international organizations) have begun to adopt integrated approaches or instruments to assess the potential impacts of proposed legislation on stakeholders and their well-being, economic sectors, and the environment (Radaelli 2009; Jacob et al. 2011; Adelle and Weiland 2012; Adelle et al. 2016; European Environment Agency [EEA] 2017). Such integrated policies may help to achieve the broader set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in a cost-efficient way, overcoming existing barriers and trade-offs.


Environmental policy integration tools include regulatory impact assessment, environmental and health impact assessment, and strategic environmental assessment. These evidence-based policymaking tools are increasingly being adopted to demonstrate the need for improved environmental policies. Considerable experience is emerging in the use of these tools, particularly in the European Union.


To date, however, there is little evidence to measure the level of policy integration or the actual outcomes from applying various tools. Among the few exceptions is the Partnership for European Environmental Research (Mickwitz et al. 2009), which assessed climate policy integration in Europe, at multiple scales. A key lesson from the project is that cities and municipalities have begun to integrate climate aims into their strategies and plans, and that such authorities sometimes have more ambitious goals than national governments.


An important argument in favour of environmental policy integration is the expected economic and social co-benefits from implementing environmental policies. These co-benefits include additional economic growth spurred by innovation, savings from the conservation of natural resources, and the avoided costs of environmental damage. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that two per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP) in green investment would deliver long-term economic growth while minimizing the adverse impacts of climate change, water scarcity and loss of ecosystem services (UNEP 2011).


The analysis in GEO-6 of environmental policies and their integration demonstrates the diversity of institutional and cultural frameworks in which policymaking takes place. The roles of law, values, administrative capacities, socioeconomic conditions, and so on, are important in how effective policies can be. The design of policies that reflect on this set of conditions is important.


454 Policies, Goals, Objectives and Environmental Governance: An Assessment of their effectivess


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