Wednesday 7
Environmental Policies, Ecosystem-Services
Stig Wanden
› 11:30 - 12:30 (1h)
› JOFFRE 1-4
Conflicts and synergies in environmental policies
Stig Wandén  1@  
1 : Independent expert

Conflicts and synergies in environmental policies

By Stig Wandén


(Former economist at the International Monetary Fund and researcher at the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency.)


The purpose of this paper is to discuss in general terms some important connections between environment and society, in particular problems in implementing environmental policy. It is well known that a poor environment and a lack of natural resources may lead to social conflicts, but there are so far few discussions about the reverse problem, namely that efforts to save the environment also may have such undesired effects. Thus, environmental policies may well distort the distribution of resources and political power, and neglecting this fact may make environmental policies counterproductive. Indeed, poorly designed policy measures may increase environmental problems by resulting in social unrest. Standard economic models using general equilibrium or optimization do not adequately deal with such complications. And the concept of resilience is not generally useful in the analysis of complex social conflicts. Indeed, we may not wish some existing societies to be resilient.


In this paper the social implications of environmental policies are discussed. In the first part, the paper gives an overview over possible synergies and goal conflicts connected with the efforts to save the environment. A conceptual apparatus is introduced to deal with different government objectives and their interplay, using the Swedish case as a point of departure but also relying on international research. A distinction between system goals, production goals, horizontal goals, and process goals proves useful. Not only investigations of the effects of environmental policies, but also studies of the processes of such policies are necessary.


In the second part, a large and diversified number of both conflicts and synergies are described, using these concepts. As regards conflicts, attempts to reach goals concerning in particular climate, no eutrophication, only natural acidification, and water policies may impede industrial growth, technological developments, and increased consumption for the poorest layers of the population. Also, environmental concerns sometimes contradict free trade conventions. The implementation of environmental objectives can also lead to organisational and socio-psychological difficulties. One obvious example is the necessity to centralize important decisions about environmental policies, clashing with the need to rely on local knowledge and priorities about actual environmental problems.


In the third part, the ethical aspects of the unavoidable trade-offs between environmental and social welfare objectives are discussed. Obviously, environmental objectives cannot always have preference. Building on the earlier parts, an approach to apply environmental ethics to such trade-offs is suggested, proposing a case by case deliberation using a number of ethical positions as points of reference. This includes a view on ethics as an activity, not as a set of rules. Finally a discussion in general terms of different strategies to implement environmental decisions rounds the paper off.

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