The role of monitoring and enforcement in environmental policy evaluation

2012 EEEN Forum / Evaluation

Sandra Rousseau, HUBrussel and KU Leuven

Monitoring and enforcement are essential elements in any environmental policy and their role is crucial in deter­mining the effectiveness of a particular policy. Incomplete enforcement has therefore proved to be a very important factor in the practice of environmental regulation and its implications will be the focus of this contribution. Regula­tors do not automatically know the compliance status of individuals and firms subject to environmental policy. Site visits and reporting requirements will be needed to establish compliance and to detect violators. These monitoring activities are costly and budgets available to inspection agencies are typically limited. After the first step of detecting non-compliance, the next step involves the decision whether or not to impose an appropriate sanction on the de­tected violator. Again this sanctioning decision requires the use of scarce resources. Thus it is important to take the budgetary costs of monitoring and enforcement into account as well as the impact on compliance decisions, since they will influence the environmental results obtained from the policy as well as the cost effectiveness of the policy. Besides having a negative effect on the envi­ronmental results of the policy, frequently observed (and unpunished) non-compliance can have a corrosive effect on the legitimacy of the criminal justice system and can undermine the public’ confi­dence in police, government, prosecutors and courts.

However, it is not always straightforward to include monitoring and enforcement aspects into policy assessment. The incentives provided by particular penalty schemes can be quite complex. A case in point is a penalty scheme often used subsidy programs whereby the penalty if caught not complying is to repay (with interest) all previous subsidy payments made.

To conclude, in order to correctly evaluate an existing environmental policy or to design an appropri­ate future policy, it is essential to include monitoring and enforcement aspects. These aspects are as much part of a particular envi­ronmental policy as the abatement technology choices and emissions decisions made by firms and individuals.

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