Smart Regulation: Designing Environmental Policy

Smart Regulation: Designing Environmental Policy

Smart Regulation: Designing Environmental Policy

Smart Regulation: Designing Environmental Policy


Despite decades of policy experimentation, the ultimate goal of efficient and effective environmental regulation has continued to elude policy-makers and regulatory theorists. The less than satisfactory performance of both government and market approaches to environmental protection has led to the introduction of a broader range of policy mechanisms, such as education, information-based strategies, economic instruments and self-regulation. Yet these various policy instruments are usually treated as alternatives to one another rather than as complementary. Drawing from studies in North America, Europe and Australia, the authors show how the design of complementary combinations of policy instruments, tailored to particular environmental goals and circumstances, will produce more effective and efficient policy outcomes. They also confront the critical problem of how, at a time of fiscal constraint and small government, environmental policy might still be designed in ways that improve outcomes both for the environment and for business.


Twenty or thirty years ago we were secure in our assumption that the most appropriate legislative response to the undesirable consequences of industrialised life for the natural environment was the use of legal regulation backed by the criminal sanction. This reliance upon command and control regulation was, however, soon to be threatened by a growing belief that it was both ineffective and inefficient. Complaints also began to be heard, particularly in the United States, that regulatory agencies acted towards regulated business with an unnecessary, counterproductive, and ultimately costly adversarialism, and some academics in other countries where there may have been a less adversarial approach were nevertheless influenced by these arguments. Neo-liberal writers and politicians simply attacked the whole regulatory enterprise, arguing instead for widespread deregulation.

In practice, however, reliance on command and control regulation has so far been substantially unshaken by these various assaults. Yet there remains a growing concern that something better than this traditional form of regulation needs to be devised. There are demands for less costly regulation and for regulation that is more sensitive to the fact that business has to operate in increasingly competitive environments.

This book addresses the key issue of how regulatory policy is to be developed in the face of such pressures. The authors focus on the problem of environmental regulation and provide a comprehensive and thorough analysis which rises above a simplistic debate about the virtues of regulation or deregulation. Instead they seek a way forward that is both effective and sensitive, one that avoids the inefficiencies of command and control regulation and the problems that deregulation brings. In the chapters that follow the authors argue for what they call 'smart' regulation: a way of achieving the goal of effective environmental protection in an era of constrained public resources through the use of a variety of more flexible, pluralistic approaches. Their book is a welcome addition to a number of monographs on regulation that have already appeared in Oxford Socio-Legal Studies.

Keith Hawkins . . .

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