New Horizons in Environmental Economics series
Edited by Albert Breton, Giorgio Brosio, Silvana Dalmazzone and Giovanna Garrone
Chapter 18: United Kingdom: Environmental Policymaking in a Centralised, Market-driven System
* Stephen Smith 1. INTRODUCTION Three key features characterise the context of environmental policy in the United Kingdom; a high degree of centralisation of political authority, a substantially market-driven economy, and, over the past 25 years or so, a growing inﬂuence from the European Union. Despite the recent devolution measures, which have established a Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly with signiﬁcant control over many areas of policy, the UK remains a highly-centralised political system. Apart from the ‘territorial’ devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, there is no regional level of democratic government. Local governments are responsible for signiﬁcant expenditures (especially on education, social services, transport, and so on), but are entities created by statute, and, likewise, vulnerable to abolition by statute. Local authorities are heavily constrained in how they exercise their assigned powers by detailed, discretionary regulation by central government. At the same time the political system delivers considerable decisive power to the government of the day, as a result of a two-party system, an electoral system which generally gives a single party an absolute majority of legislative seats, and a single democratically-elected legislative chamber (mildly inconvenienced by the delaying powers of the non-elected second chamber). Second, in comparison with most other west European countries the UK has a more market-driven economy, especially since the privatisations of the 1980s and 1990s. The general tenor of microeconomic policy in many areas – labour market and employment protection, the housing market, industrial policy, and so on – has favoured market-based solutions,...
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