Chapter 7: Property Rights Instruments: Transformative Policy Options
INTRODUCTION Over the past two decades, coincident with the rise of the sustainability discourse, the application of property rights instruments (PRIs) to natural resource management has been advocated as a means to efficiently allocate scarce resources. PRIs here refer to entitlements to resource use that have been endowed with characteristics of property interests, such as the ability to trade them in a market and capture changes in their value. Often these are quantified entitlements. Such instruments have been implemented for the control of sulphur emissions from fossil fuel burning power stations, in controlling discharges into rivers affecting water quality, for the allocation of water abstraction, and most notably in marine fisheries management. Such policy instruments have been proposed in other areas, including carbon emissions and sequestration, and biodiversity conservation. Although often characterized as just another tool in the policy toolbox, this chapter argues that, in many cases, PRIs involve a fundamental change in distributional logic and in the culture of resource use. Property rights are a fundamental component of a society’s institutional systems. They arise and are conditioned by rules in constitutional documents, statute law and the doctrines and precedence of Common Law. Informal rules – social norms – also sanction property rights. Property rights provide the backbone of incentive structures that reduce uncertainty about the behaviour of others and make higher levels of coordination and social organization possible. Property rights are so basic to natural resource use as to be inherent where they are not specified, in the sense that the...
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