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unfortunately cannot be provided. It is rarely feasible or ethical in the environmental domain to conduct policy experiments that show the counterfactual – that is, what would have happened had there been no policy?


Further, the literature shows the importance of various constraining and enabling factors, such as institutional capacity and political will. Policies also rarely stand alone, and the importance is stressed, as discussed earlier, of coherent, synergistic policies, or policy mixes. It is important, too, to recognize co-benefits and unintended side effects. Finally, spillover effects need to be recognized, especially where these involve transboundary concerns.


Accordingly, a two-track process was adopted for the assessment of policy effectiveness (Chapter 10) in GEO-6. For the top-down perspective, the author teams identified typical policy approaches that have been employed to solve key environmental problems in the areas of air, biodiversity, oceans, land, fresh water (surface and groundwater), and cross- cutting issues (Chapters 12-17). To illustrate experience in the implementation of these policy approaches in greater detail, specific case studies were selected, and effectiveness criteria derived from the literature were used to provide a qualitative assessment of policy effectiveness.


The second track, bottom-up, was to identify policy-sensitive indicators, meaning that one should be able to construct, again from the literature, a plausible story around why each indicator appears to be improving in response to a policy or policy mix. Within Chapters 12-17, the subsections on indicators therefore cover:


v their descriptions and their relation to SDGs or other multilateral environmental agreements;


v how data are collected for each indicator; v a plausible line of argument for how an observed improvement in the indicator across multiple countries could be due, at least partly, to one or more policies;


v what other factors might explain the improvement; and v what alternative indicators could verify the role of policies.


18


The narrative is interspersed with infographics. Depending on the availability of data in the literature, these help to show: correlations between the adoption of certain policies by countries and improvements in the indicators; trend analysis showing improvement in the indicator; or the numbers of countries reporting on the indicator over time.


From the limited number of case studies that could be addressed in GEO-6, it is apparent that there are very few cases where all the effectiveness criteria have been comprehensively covered at the policy design, implementation or post-evaluation stages of the policy cycle. In many cases, no quantifiable baseline was established, making it difficult to show quantitative evidence that the policy was improving environmental outcomes as intended. In most cases, there was no ex ante cost-benefit or cost-effectiveness analysis, making it uncertain that the best policy choice had been made. While co- benefits were often identified, in most cases through hindsight, there was no evidence of a deliberate, prospective attempt to ensure policy coherence and synergies. While most policies specifying a timeframe had been conducted within that period,


a surprising number of case studies appeared to be open ended, with no specific time for closure, evaluation or renewal. Many of the case studies were linked to global processes and agreements, which suggests that comprehensive environmental agreements like the Paris Agreement and the SDGs do provide an overarching policy framework that guides national policy processes.


The findings from GEO-6’s assessment of policy effectiveness, as well as from its assessment of the evaluation methods used, have the potential to help develop a baseline for future research and global assessments. Continued efforts on policy evaluation would also help to close these gaps in data.


18.2 Connections to future policy


The analysis above of policy effectiveness inevitably comes after a lag in time because policymakers do not know if a policy has been effective until some years after its initial implementation, especially if part of the indication of effectiveness is viewed to be implementation across multiple countries. This means that Part B has not been able to showcase new emerging, promising policy approaches, which are instead addressed in Chapter 24 (The Way Forward). Future editions of GEO will need to assess the eventual effectiveness of these policy approaches following their implementation. Policymakers have the opportunity meanwhile to examine the effectiveness criteria selected in GEO-6 and to use these when designing the new generation of policies and planning their evaluation.


Improved policies and governance arrangements will form an essential part of crafting pathways towards sustainability. It is likely that the emerging and promising policies covered in Part C (Outlooks) will come into this picture – because the current set of policy approaches are unlikely, with the required urgency, to achieve the SDGs, Paris Agreement and other multilateral environmental agreements. One example of the need for new innovative policy is that the setting of national standards, as part of the normal command-and-control policy approach to combating pollution, is too slow and unwieldly to keep up with the thousands of new chemicals, materials, genetically modified organisms and nanotechnologies being released into the environment every day.


18.3 Gaps in knowledge


The policy-effectiveness analysis conducted for GEO-6 has struck out into a new direction for UN Environment. Policymakers want to know which policies work and why, but assessments should not stray too far into policy advocacy. The costs of inaction and inordinate delays in policy implementation also need to be studied, as well as the effectiveness of policy action. The key gap, surprising many of the authors, was the paucity of well-documented evaluations of the selected case studies that illustrate the importance of the science-policy interface. It appears that in most countries it is either not the practice to conduct post-evaluations of policies, or if such evaluations are conducted then the results are not in the public domain.


We suggest that UN Environment works with member countries to extract those policy evaluations not currently in the public domain to create a section for policy effectiveness in the online data portal, Environment Live. Researchers and


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


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