Social Justice in Environmental Policy

26 October 2007
By Michael Spackman with former NERA Director John Dodgson, University of East Anglia Professors Robert Sugden and Graham Loomes, and Dr. Henry Rothstein of King’s College London

This report examines issues of social justice in public policy with special reference to the needs of the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. It equates social justice in this context with "fairness" and suggests that it would be feasible in the environmental context (though not for all policy fields) to develop guidance to frame debate about fairness in policy development, in policy implementation, and in public consultation and perceptions. However, a major challenge is the great diversity of policy issues, academic disciplines, and policy domains that this entails. Policy issues include those of social distribution (by income and by ethnic or other social grouping, including international and intergenerational equity); and the circumstances in which absolute regulation (as with fly-tipping, or minimum levels of air pollution) is more or less appropriate than regulation based on case by case cost-effectiveness (as with many industrial emissions), or than market approaches, such as taxes or subsidies or tradable permits, or than no specific measure. Policy issues extend also to the circumstances in which payment by polluters, or by beneficiaries, or the payment of compensation are appropriate; and issues of public perception and policy consultation and presentation.