This course aims to enable students to understand environmental policies and their governance in various parts of the world, with an emphasis on real-world examples from Asia and China.
Part A of the course introduces students to the fundamental and practical aspects of an environmental policy: development, assessment and revision. It uses real-world examples to illustrate the following multi-step approach:
• Identify the need for the policy (e.g., global warming due to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions );
• Set the policy target (e.g., 50% below the 2000 level by year 2030);
• Identify the possible policy actions to achieve the target (e.g., promote energy-efficient appliances and buildings, increase fuel-efficient/electric cars, retire coal-fired power plants, and develop renewable, nuclear energy, and clean vehicular fuels).
• Formulate a policy plan that may include regulations (e.g., no old dirty cars on the road by 2020), tax and subsidy (e.g., exemption of registration fee for electric cars), and quota-based programs (e.g., renewable portfolio standards (RPS) to develop wind generation for electric car charging).
• Assess the plan’s merit from various perspectives (e.g., costs and values, political and public acceptance, science and technology, administration and management).
• Revise the policy and its plan after their implementation to address such questions as: (a) should the policy target be tightened? and (b) should its plan be changed?
To ensure students’ firm understanding, Part A requires students to form teams, each performing a case study of an environment policy in Asia that impacts one’s daily life (e.g., air quality, electricity generation, energy consumption, environmental education, food production, land use, mining and resource extraction, marine resources, public transportation, toxic waste, and water quality). Each team may have up to three members, although a student may choose to work as a one-person team.
An environment policy can fail sans good governance. Hence, Part B focuses on environmental governance that entails interventions to change environment-related incentives, institutions, decision making, and behaviour. It includes regulatory processes, mechanisms and organizations through which political actors influence environmental actions and outcomes. To see this point, consider the case of large GHG reductions that cannot occur without addressing such questions in environmental governance as:
• Who are the major consumers of fossil fuels that contribute to GHG emissions and global warming (e.g., cars, electricity generators, and manufacturing plants)?
• What are the other sources of GHG emissions (e.g., coal and wood as cooking/heating fuel, deforestation, farming, land fill, and fossil fuel extraction)?
• Do these consumers believe that global warming is a real risk, rather than a scientific hoax?
• Do they act on their own, without intervention of any kind, to reduce GHG emissions?
• How do they respond to regulatory processes (e.g., GHG emissions standards), incentive mechanisms (e.g., carbon taxes) and organizations (e.g., government agencies and self-regulatory bodies)?
• What are the characteristics of the global warming problem that transcends national borders (e.g., developed vs. developing countries), space (e.g., Asia vs. North America), and time (current vs. future generation)?
• What are the actions that the government, communities, businesses, and NGOs may take to achieve GHG reductions?
• What is the role of decentralization that delegates the responsibility of GHG reductions to local administrative and organizational arrangements, as well as individual decision-making by market participants (e.g., RPS set by individual states in the U.S.)?
• What are the market-based mechanisms that use incentives (e.g., carbon taxes and cap and trade) to induce GHG reductions?
• What are the inter-relationships among international accords, national policies, local decision-making structures, transnational institutions, and environmental groups?
• What is the impact of globalization that interconnects various regions on GHG reductions?
To ensure students’ firm understanding, Part B requires each team to perform a follow-up study of environmental governance for the case chosen in Part A. This study should focus on the systems, processes, and tools to effectively execute an environmental policy, rather than Part A’s study on the development, design and revision of the policy.