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"Environmental policy can't be based solely on efficiency arguments. Issues of ethics are at least as important." Discuss

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Introduction

"Environmental policy can't be based solely on efficiency arguments. Issues of ethics are at least as important." Discuss The above statement is true to a certain extent and in the course of this essay a balanced discussion will be presented in the hope that the outcomes will prove this to be true. To begin, the thoughts of some Russian intellectuals will be put forwards on the subject of Utilitarianism and why efficiency is self-destructive in the long run, thus supporting the statement "Environmental policy can't be based solely on efficiency arguments." To lead on from this there will be a dialogue as to the problems faced by old command and control (hence forth referred to as CAC) policies such as direct regulation and emissions fees from an efficiency and ethical viewpoint. Then, these methods of environmental policy and the ideas of Ronald Coase will be highlighted as an example of ethical influence in possible environmental policy as well as from an efficiency standpoint. Following this will be an outlining of the development of the U.S Tradable permits approach to air pollution control and the ethical influences therein. Taking the ethical issues point raised in the title statement one step further then leads onto the idea of ethical considerations. These have been based around an anthropocentric perspective, thus far and so at this point some views from an eco-centric stance will be considered. To do this, A. Leopold's 'The Land Ethic' will be looked at. The rights of nature will be brought under the umbrella of Ethical issues and discussed from a policy perspective. ...read more.

Middle

Under the notion of Coase theorem, if it is cheaper for the resort to pay the factory for the cost of pollution abatement rather than change his own land use then this should be done, producing a situation where everybody is happy and the overall conditions are more desirable. This efficiency based policy is seen to be an advancement of old efficiency based policy though there are still problems associated with it due to the fact that ethics are not considered. One of the largest problems noted by Coase is the idea of the "Public Good Problem" (D. Friedman. 2004). If there are many different people living downwind of a factory and they contribute to the abatement of the pollution, then if one person does not pay because doing so wont make a difference to whether the abatement is paid or not and the abatement does go through, then that person is seen to be a "free rider" (D. Friedman. 2004) getting abatement for free. This is why air pollution in Southern California still persists, as there are millions of people living in the area it is hard to get a situation where everyone pays for the abatement of pollution and it is not possible to re-locate this vast number of people. Coase argues that it is not the externalities that essentially create the problem, but that it is the transaction costs. A policy approach to the environment that has taken ethical issues into consideration can be seen in the US formation of a tradable permit approach to air pollution control. ...read more.

Conclusion

To conclude it can be said that efficiency is still the main focus of environmental policy making however over time the emergence of ethics in policy has emerged, though ethical issues are not considered to be at least as important as efficiency arguments. It has been said that "without some kind of ethic (a theory of right and responsibility) and some kind of axiology (or value theory) we lack guidance and direction for tackling problems, whether global, environmental, or otherwise" (R. Attfield. 1999). The discussion in this essay has led towards an outcome that supports the statement to a certain degree. It has been shown through the use of the utilitarian argument and some CAC policy methods that efficiency is not the only thing that has to be considered in environmental policy making, and the US case-study supports the notion that a certain amount of ethics has to be involved. But the nature of the ethics that is applied is essentially Human-centric and to consider ethical issues in environmental policy to be as important as efficiency the idea of a land ethic is an important one. As Leopold says himself the idea of a land ethic is not yet public opinion and in fact is only being kept alive by a minority who has revolted against modern trends of efficiency and human-centric ethics. Ethical issues are not as important as efficiency arguments in environmental policy though if the land ethic were to become a popular opinion through re-education and a shift in social thinking then there is a hope that in time the statement will be completely justified. ...read more.

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