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The changing winds of atmospheric environment policy

Murray, F. (2013) The changing winds of atmospheric environment policy. Environmental Science and Policy, 29 . pp. 115-123.

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Atmospheric environmental policies have changed considerably over the last several decades. Clearly the relative importance of the various issues has changed over half a century, for example from smoke, sulphur dioxide and photochemical smog being the top priorities to greenhouse gases being the major priority.The traditional policy instrument to control emissions to the atmosphere has been command and control regulation. In many countries this was successful in reducing emissions from point sources, the first generation issues, and to a lesser extent, emissions from mobile and area sources, the second generation issues, although challenges remain in many jurisdictions. However once the simpler, easier, cheaper and obvious targets had been at least partially controlled this form of regulation became less effective. It has been complemented by other instruments including economic instruments, self-regulation, voluntarism and information instruments to address more complex issues including climate change, a third generation issue.Policy approaches to atmospheric environmental issues have become more complex. Policies that directly focus on atmospheric issues have been partially replaced by more integrated approaches that consider multimedia (water, land, etc.) and sustainability issues.Pressures from stakeholders for inclusion, greater transparency and better communication have grown and non-government stakeholders have become increasingly important participants in governance.The scale of the issues has evolved from a local to national, regional and global scales. Consequently the approaches to atmospheric environmental policy have also been amended. The international dimensions of atmospheric issues have grown in prominence and challenge governance and politics with pressures for international cooperation and harmonisation of policies. This is reducing the policy flexibility of national governments.Partially in response to these changes, to manage environmental risks and protect their brands, leaders in the corporate sector have generally found it beneficial to increase responsibility and accountability, including establishing corporate environmental policies, environmental management systems, risk management, sustainability reporting and other measures.This analysis clearly identifies that these changes are inter-related. Acting together they have transformed the way that atmospheric issues are governed in the last several decades in developed countries. Together they have led to governments in many developed countries vacating leadership roles and becoming increasingly managers of the policy process. As the leadership role of governments has been partially eroded, governments are more reliant on persuasion and diplomacy in their relations with stakeholders. As a consequence, governance arrangements have become more complex, multilevel and polycentric.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Publisher: Elsevier BV
Copyright: © Elsevier BV
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