Accelerating progress towards climate and policy goals through environmental regulation

Accelerating progress towards climate and policy goals through environmental regulation

The UK has set high ambitions for tackling climate change and restoring the natural environment.

Well-designed, implemented and enforced regulation can be a powerful policy tool to accelerate emissions reductions, protect and restore nature, and drive economic growth.

Our report for the Aldersgate Group establishes four key principles for effective and smart regulation that delivers on these goals. It provides a practical framework for policymakers and regulators to design better regulation and reform existing regulation to make it more effective.

We build on existing literature and guidance to provide a practical framework that can be applied to new and existing regulation,  the basis of which is four principles for good environmental regulation. They reflect how the environment is different from other areas that are regulated, and they aim to move regulatory authorities away from breaking the environment down into its constituent parts and uses, to encourage a more accurate understanding of the environment’s complexity.

The four principles for good environmental regulation:

  1. Whole of the environment: This principle highlights the importance of not targeting one aspect of climate or nature without considering others.
  2. Multidisciplinary perspective: This principle acknowledges the limitations of a narrow cost-benefit analysis approach to support decision making, and the importance of including evidence from a range of disciplines.
  3. Cross-sector approach: This principle emphasises the importance of considering multiple sectors to develop more consistent incentives, reduce costs and deliver greater environmental benefits than when sectors are viewed in isolation.
  4. Fairness: This principle outlines that it is important to make sure that location, ability-to-pay and intergenerational fairness are considered when determining where the burden of improving the environment should fall.

In addition to the four principles, the report provides a practical checklist that details how the principles can be applied in practice.

Key recommendations

We have translated the framework into a set of policy recommendations that summarises how environmental regulation needs to change: 

  • Target outcomes not outputs
  • Full assessment of societal costs and benefits
  • Recognise the cost of inaction or insufficient action
  • Innovation at scale for the environment
  • Factor in climate and nature tipping points and irreversibility
  • Primary focus on polluter pays
  • Increased cross-sector collaboration
  • Ensure the resources of regulators increase with their responsibilities

Next Steps

This report outlines the framework as a practical starting point for improving environmental regulation, but more work will be needed to implement it.

The next step is for regulators and policymakers in individual sectors to apply this framework to existing climate and nature regulations in their own sectors, to demonstrate its benefits. Crucial to achieving this is collaboration amongst decision-makers in different sectors, and the provision of skills and resources to regulators, such that they can undertake the new analysis required and enforce the updated regulation.

Click here to read the full report: The role of regulation in restoring nature and delivering net zero