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Policy Database Introduction

HomePolicy Database Introduction
HomePolicy Database Introduction

The drivers of nutrient pollution are diverse and include complex and interrelated socioeconomic factors. The direct drivers of nutrient pollution include energy consumption and fertilizer use which result in increased nutrients lost to the environment, as well as land-use conversion which diminishes the capacity of ecosystems to capture and cycle nutrients. Indirect drivers of nutrient pollution include demographic shifts, expansion of intensive agriculture, and economic growth (Howarth 2008; Selman and Greenhalgh 2009 ).

In order to address nutrient pollution, governments and institutions must consider a wide array of policy tools that can be applied to various sectors (including urban, agricultural, wastewater, fisheries, etc.) in order to mitigate nutrient pollution. The GPNM has compiled a database  of policies around the globe that directly or indirectly mitigate nutrient pollution. We have placed policies into 7 broad categories and further categoriezed policies by type within each of these categories (policy taxonomy borrowed from Greenhalgh & Selman 2014 ). Read below to learn more about the policy categories and the types of policies within these.

  • Environmental Outreach & Education

    Environmental outreach and education policies help promote environmental education and public awareness as well as provide technical assistance to landowners, businesses, or homeowners to address nutrient pollution.

    • > Environmental Education

      Environmental education helps shape values and raises environmental awareness from an early age into adulthood. It focuses on teaching the inherent value of the environment, informs people about how the choices they make ultimately impact the environment and may influence individuals to change behavior and lifestyles to reduce nutrient pollution.

    • > Public Awareness

      Increasing public awareness can involve awareness campaigns which increase public knowledge and understanding of the nutrient pollution problems and raise support for political actions.

    • > Technical Assistance

      Technical assistance can promote the adoption of technologies or practices that aim to reduce nutrient runoff. It is often provided by local, state or federal (central) governments or industry representatives through cooperation projects.

  • Regulatory Approaches

    Regulatory or command-and-control approaches operate on the premise that a penalty will be incurred if a source of pollution fails to comply with prescribed environmental standards, abatement requirements, or technology standards.

    • > Environmental Bans & Restrictions

      Environmental bans and restrictions target specific activities, products or technologies that may lead to nutrient pollution.

    • > Environmental Standards

      Environmental standards prescribe particular products, processes, technologies, or practices that are meant to achieve desired environmental outcomes.

    • > Environmental Caps & Limits

      Environmental caps and limits regulate the permitted or allowable amount of pollutant discharges. The regulated sources that fall under the cap generally have flexibility about how this cap is met.  

    • > Regulatory Frameworks

      Regulatory frameworks provide legislative basis or guidance on how to regulate the discharges of pollutants and improve water quality.

  • Price-Based Instruments

    Price-based instruments rely on explicit price signals to motivate changes in behavior, including penalties for pollutant discharges and rewards to reduce adverse impacts.

    • > Taxes, Fees, Levies

      Taxes, fees, and levies are used to mitigate the impacts of nutrient pollution. “Taxes” refer to mandatory financial charges imposed on individuals and businesses by government, “fees” are imposed by governmental or non-governmental bodies and are paid for specific goods or services provided by that body (e.g. water use fee, pollutant discharge fee), and “levies” are imposed by non-governmental bodies such as industry bodies for services provided by that body.

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    • > Tax Credits & Rebates

      A tax credit is an amount deducted from a taxpayer’s tax liability, and can be used to encourage investment in technologies or adoption of practices that reduce nutrient pollution. A tax rebate is a refund that is given to an individual who implements nutrient management after the full tax amount has been paid.

    • > Subsidies, Grants & Incentive Payments

      Subsidies are payments to individuals or businesses that provide financial incentives to change behavior or adopt practices and technologies to reduce nutrient pollution. Grants can be used to fund individuals, governments, international organizations, etc., to implement programs, technologies or activities that reduce nutrient pollution. Other incentive payments include income support which is a payment provided to farmers who fulfill environmental standards and comply with sustainable agricultural practices.

    • > Low-Interest Loans

      Low-interest loans create voluntary incentives for individuals or businesses to invest in activities or technologies that contribute to nutrient management.

  • Market-Based Instruments

    Market-based instruments refer to any policy where a market-like mechanism is created to determine the price paid for an environmental outcome.

    • Regulatory Environmental Markets

      Regulatory environmental markets are created and regulated through government legislation. These markets create rights to discharge nutrients up to a specified limit and allow these rights to be traded, providing incentives for those who reduce nutrient discharges at least cost, to sell those improvements to others.

    • Voluntary Environmental Markets

      Voluntary environmental markets are driven by consumer preferences and are not established or enforced by government. They provide unregulated individuals or businesses that want to compensate for their environmental impacts with a mechanism to purchase environmental offsets from willing sellers of such improvements.

    • > Auctions & Tenders

      Auctions or tenders are a type of funding allocation strategy. They are competitive bidding systems with a single buyer and multiple sellers. The bidding process gives participants the incentive to reveal the minimum compensation they are willing to accept to adopt or change nutrient management practices.

    • > Ecolabeling

      Ecolabeling is used to certify that products are produced in an environmentally preferable way compared to other products in the same product/service category, based on life cycle or other considerations. Ecolabeling is meant to create consumer preference for environmentally friendly products and thus generate a financial return to the supplier of the certified product in the form of increased revenues.

  • Ecosystem Restoration & Protection

    Ecosystem preservation and restoration policies protect or restore riparian forests, wetlands, mangroves, and open areas that can mitigate nutrient pollution.

    • > Ecosystem Restoration

      Ecosystem restoration policies are fund activities that aim at restoring an ecosystem and its associated ecosystem services to a stable, healthy, and sustainable state.

    • > Protected Areas

      Protected areas generally limit exploitation of resources and human occupation to maintain valuable ecosystems. Establishing protected areas through legal measures can serve to protect and preserve critical ecosystems.

    • > Land Purchases

      Land purchases refer to policies where private land is purchased and retired from productive uses or converted to less intensive uses.

    • > Covenants and Easements

      Covenants and easements are legal restrictions placed on land. They are legally binding voluntary agreements that allow landowners to retain ownership of the land while placing limits on the use of that land. These restrictions are tied to land titles or deeds and therefore are passed on to future owners.

    • > Stewardship Agreements

      Stewardship agreements are typically agreements made between organizations regarding the management and use of land. These agreements are typically established between associations not individuals.

  • Institutions and Capacity

    When considering the suite of policies that can be used to mitigate nutrient pollution, decision-makers should also consider whether there is institutional capacity to enact and enforce the policies, whether there is suitable transparency and accountability in existing institutions to ensure that policies are supported by the communities they impact, and whether appropriate institutions exist to administer the policies or implement the actions.

    • > Institutional Capacity

      Policies that aim to strengthen institutional capacity often provide funding, staff, and/or technical expertise to develop, enforce and monitor implementation of nutrient mitigation practices.

    • > Transparency & Accountability

      Institutional transparency helps to create accountability on the part of institutions and government and can in turn help to ensure that policies are adequately enforced and monitored for effectiveness.

    • > Bridging Institutions

      Coordination among government agencies, jurisdictions and stakeholders is necessary to effectively reduce multi-sectoral and transboundary nutrient pollution. Cooperation might entail closer agency or jurisdictional cooperation that includes a commitment to share information and coordinate actions. For large regional issues, bridging institutions may create a better platform for coordination among the various stakeholders.

    • > Partnerships

      Partnerships provide a mechanism through which different parties can develop a common understanding of key issues of nutrient pollution and how these can best be addressed. Specifically, public-private partnerships refer to arrangements between the public and private sectors whereby some of the nutrient management issues that fall under the responsibilities of the public sector are provided by the private sector.

    • > Frameworks & Guidance

      Frameworks and guidance can form the basis of nutrient management strategies, and identify and guide joint actions to effectively manage nutrient discharges and reduce nutrient losses.

  • Research, Monitoring, and Evaluation

    Research, monitoring, and evaluation activities complement the implementation of policy instruments by providing information on the status, trend and condition of nutrient discharges; identifying the causes of nutrient pollution; providing information and tools to inform policy development; and establishing effective measures and monitoring programs to track how policy and related processes impact and depend on improvement of water quality, and to adaptively manage the policies implemented.

    • > Research

      Examples of critical research areas include research on measures that can be undertaken on farms and wastewater treatment plants to reduce nutrient losses; research and development of nutrient efficient crop varieties; and development of technologies and processes that can be used to mitigate nutrient pollution.

    • > Monitoring

      Long-term monitoring helps track nitrogen and phosphorus levels of water bodies, as well as the impact of policies on the condition of water quality. Time-series monitoring data are used to evaluate long-term trends and provide a better understanding of the drivers, sources, and impacts of nutrient pollution.

    • > Evaluation

      Evaluation is conducted for assessing the design, implementation, and outcomes of nutrient management policies and evaluating ecosystem health. 

    • > Biophysical Modeling

      Biophysical models are used to estimate trends in nutrient pollution and management efforts or to predict the effectiveness/impact of nutrient mitigation technologies, practices, developments or policies. Models are often calibrated with monitoring data.