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Ten Principles of the New Environmentalism

There has been a growing change in the way environmental policies, programmes and projects are formulated and implemented. Among the key features of this 'new thining' has been the linking between economic activities and environemntal problems; the need for a multiplicity of actors and actions at various levels to solve these problems; the cross-border, global nature of environmental problems needing actions to be taken at the international level.

Specifically, the new environmentalism - characterized by greater precision in factoring environmental costs and benefits into policy making - puts local people at the center of environmental strategies, diagnoses and addresses behavioural causes of environmental damage, and recognizes the political dimensions of environmental reform. Ten principles characterize the new environmentalism in force today:

Principle 1:
Set priorities carefully

The seriousness of environmental problems and the scarcity of financial resources have required tough prioritization and phasing of remedial actions. Broad, shallow and expensive approaches have to be avoided, with serious priority-setting exercises grounded in proven studies and analyses.

Principle 2:
Make every dollar count

Unnessarily expensive environmental policies, based on high-cost approaches traditionally used in industrial countries, have to avoided. There is a need for a new emphasis on cost-effectiveness, allowing for much more to be achieved with limited resources. It requires a multidisciplinary approach - one that calls for environmental specialists and economists to work together to identify the lowest-cost methods of addressing key environmental problems.

Principle 3:
Harness "win-win" opportunities

Some gains in the environment will involve costs and trade-offs. Others can be achieved as by-products of policies designed to improve efficiency and reduce poverty. Reducing subsidies on the use of natural resources, clarifying and reallocating property rights, are examples of 'win-win' policies, which are expected to have beneficial impacts on the environment, particularly given the scarcity of resources devoted to solving environmental problems.

Principle 4:
Use market instruments where feasible

Market-based incentives to reduce environmental damage are best in principle and often in practice as well. They contrast with traditional command-and-control and technology-driven regulations that have been the norm until recently. Innovative approaches involving emissions and effluent charges, harvesting permits, market-based extraction charges, and tradable permits are some examples.

Principle 5:
Economize on administrative and regulatory capacity

In many countries, administrative and enforcement capacity is usually weak. They recognize that they cannot adopt highly 'enforcement-intensive' approaches and therefore emphasize on self-enforcing policies and other instruments (such as taxes, bans, fees etc.) with less intervention. This approach has also provided increased roles for NGOs and community groups.

Principle 6:
Work with the private sector, not against it

Recognizing their limited regulatory capacity and the need for accelerated private investment . many governments are switching from a control-dominated attitude towards the private sector to one that involves dialogue and negotiated, monitorable programmes. Self-enforcement, independent certifications schemes (for example the ISO14000) are now playing a much larger role.

Principle 7:
Involve citizens thoroughly

When a country's environmental problems are addressed, the chances of success are greatly enhanced if local citizens are involved. Such involvement is needed for four reasons:
  1. local citizens are often better able than governments to identify the priorities for action
  2. members of local communities often know about cost-effective solutions that are not available to governments
  3. the motivation and commitment of communities are often what sees an environmental project through to its completion.
  4. it helps build constituencies for change as a counterweight to vested interests.

Principle 8:
Invest in partnerships that work

Often, the most effective way in dealing with environmental issues is when the stakeholders work in partnership. NGO involvement in priority-setting exercises, and tripartite relationships, (the government, the private sector and the community organizations) are becoming increasingly common. The value of such partnerships stems from not only the different perspectives and skills that are brought to the table, but also the necessity of carrying out concerted actions to address environmental issues.

Principle 9:
Remember that management is more important than technology

The old-fashioned, technology driven approach to the environment is giving way to a recognition of the crucial role of good management. Improved management practices are always a complement to, and sometimes a substitute for, investment in equipment.

Principle 10:
Incorporate the environment from the start

When it comes to protecting the environment, prevention is much cheaper - and more effective - than cure. Most countries now seek to assess and mitigate potential damage from new infrastructural investment. Efforts to move such concerns 'upstream' in the project cycle to factor environmental concerns into sectoral strategies, are underway.

Abstracted from: Steer, Andrew, "Ten Principles of the New Environmentalism" . Finance and Development, December 1996, p. 4-7.

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