An Environmental Policy for the 21st Century

Environmental policy is no longer the purview of statists and interventionists. A new view that puts human needs in the equation is emerging.
Published on October 8, 2005

Executive Summary

  • The environmental movement had its genesis in gloom-and-doom scenarios of global pollution.
  • These dire views tapped a common-sense appreciation for the value of our natural surroundings.
  • Human needs disappeared from apocalyptic “green” perspectives.
  • A critical understanding of environmental solutions that exclude people is growing.
  • The response of traditional “greens” to this development has often been hysterical and unfair.
  • A new consensus, both “smart” and “green,” integrates the actions of our species with ecological health.
  • Fundamental to it is an emphasis on an unbiased scientific evaluation of data.
  • Modern environmentalists insist that collective actions produce real results, not just good feelings.
  • A key element in the new approach is a healthy appreciation for the environmental benefits of wealth creation.
  • It entails abandonment of the precautionary principle and the use instead of rational cost/benefit analysis.
  • Government action to improve the environment works better when it engages incentives to change behaviour.
  • Advanced technology is the friend, not the enemy of environmental quality.
  • We are learning that public sector conflicts of interest are a major cause of environmental damage.

Seven Principles for Making Policy “Smart and Green”:

    1. Rely on unbiased science
    2. Focus on measurable results
    3. Recognize wealth creation as the wellspring for environmental improvement
    4. Substitute risk and cost benefit analysis for the precautionary principle
    5. Focus on incentives via property rights
    6. Embrace environmentally friendly technology
    7. Eliminate public sector conflicts of interest by separating resource ownership from regulation

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