Countries are actively increasing their efforts to instill environmental awareness among their people. One major and physical proof of such is the numerous bills in congress that are relevant to the environment. In the United States Congress alone, there have been 162 bills sponsored relevant to environment protection starting 2013 to present (govtrack.us). This is just one indication of the seriousness of several countries to preserve the environment. However, much as the government wants to come up with all of these policies which in the end has the same goal, and that is to environmental protection, there a need to start looking for an integrative approach for policy making. Almost all of the environmental protection policies that came up are connected to the reduction of air pollution and mitigation of climate change.
The environmental policies developed are very influential with how people interact with the environment today. For example, the passing and implementation of the Clean Air Act have significantly reduced dangerous air pollution in its more than 40 years of implementation. In return, it has significantly decreased the number of deaths caused by dangerous gases (US Environmental Protection Agency, 2009). However, as climate change continues to be an issue among citizens, policymakers and scientists over the years, the Clean Air Act has also undergone Amendments to attune it to the current situation.
Using the realities that faced the Clean Air Act alone, one can observe that when developing air quality and climate change policies, it involves several people. It does not concern policymakers alone because scientist is also needed to give the facts while the people have to be consulted. In addition, policies also need to undergo changes because situations change from time to time. This is where an integrative approach to policy making needs to be implemented. With an integrative approach, a single policy can shoot two or more birds at a time. However, this may not be as easy as saying it because it involves social, political and scientific obstacles.
In a May 21, 2013 Science-Policy Conference: Air Quality and Climate Change Policies – Separate of Joint Challenges conducted in Brussels the issue of whether to treat policies on Air Quality and Climate Change has to be treated separately or not was the main topic for discussion. It was discussed during the conference that air pollution and climate change are automatically linked with each other as causes and mitigation options are almost the same. By implementing an integrative approach to policy making, it can result to cheaper and sustainable policy implementation. It was also cited that these two issues are included in the most challenging global environment problems that need to be addressed and with the international consensus to limit the global warming relevant policies must to be unanimous across countries. Further, the sources of both air pollutants and greenhouse gases are similar, thus, the co-control of such discharges is one of the strongest point why there is a need for the integration of policies. Many air pollutants have warming or cooling effects on climate; however, climate change has also the potential to intensify air pollution. As Air quality and climate change are interrelated, the creation of policies that address both issues simultaneously will provide better health, economic, and environmental benefits.
Policy-making is a long process where several things have to be considered to be able to come-up with an effective policy. Thus, an integrative approach to developing policies may result in timelier, less cost extensive policies that better address both issues. Non-integration of policies can result to the risk of coming up with unintended trade-offs where required remedial actions may be costly. Likewise, since climate change benefits are felt in the long-term while air quality benefits are normally seen right after measures are introduced, this can show a balance between long term and short term benefits that can be serve as powerful arguments in the introduction of a long-term measure. In addition, air quality benefits can also be used to win over climate change doubters and vice-versa. (Environmental Protection UK, 2013)
Integrative policy making may sound simple. However, several obstacles have to be overcome before achieving a successful implementation. First among the several hindrances in and the most common problem in any sound policy-making effort is the politics behind the policies. The policy-making bodies in most countries are composed of politicians who have vested personal interests in some issues. As a result, even theoretically a proposed policy may have been the best answer but specific provisions are not congruent to his personal interests then it may be a caused of not being able to pass that policy. In the social aspect, even if a policy is best for the environment but may somewhat affect the way of living of the people affected by the policy, they that specific policy has to be reconsidered. Although, governments want to protect the environment, the provision of quality way of living to its citizens is still the foremost concern of any political government. Scientist must not also be taken lightly. In the case of air quality and climate change policies, some scientist are still questioning the climate change phenomenon to date. With this, obviously, they may have to question any policy that tries to address air pollution and climate change at the same time. Several other obstacles stands before being able to successfully implement a full integration of policies relevant to environmental protection, although it is obvious the naturally environmental related problems are connected to each other especially in terms of air quality and climate change. (Bryner & Duffy, 2012)
Maintaining a compartmentalized or fragmented approach to climate change and air quality policies, however, may result to policies that are not congruent with each other or redundant policies. Bryner & Duffy (2012) says that in the case of the United States, the fragmentation of policies can be seen in several forms. These include the “horizontal horizontal fragmentation of institutional capacity and knowledge among functionally differentiated agencies within and across jurisdictions and the vertical fragmentation of different policy objectives at different levels of government” (Temby, 2013). The government therefore, must improve its ways of integrating and coordinating with one another. A government policy for example, on climate change is a result of a joint effort from all government agencies involved.
Often, unforeseen trade-offs may occur where coming up with remedial solutions is more costly than the creation of an integrated policy that can fix it.
Some policies relevant to the changes in personal behaviors are effective especially when the people see the actual effects of these in the environment; however, everything still remains to be subjective. One may have change his ways because he is afraid of the consequences if he does not abide by the law, but some voluntarily change because they realize that these rules are most beneficial to the environment.
Bryner, Gary and Duffy, Robert J (2012). Integrating Climate, Energy, and Air Pollution Policies. The MIT Press
GovTrack.us (2014). Environmental Protection Bills. Retrieved from https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/subjects/environmental_protection/6038
Science-Policy Conference: Air Quality and Climate Change Policies – Separate of Joint Challenges. Retrieved from www.russfrei-fuers-klima.de/app//Conference_summary_final.pdf?t
Stockholm Environment Institute (2013). Benefits of Integrating Air Pollution and Climate Change Policy. Retrieved from http://www.sei-international.org/mediamanager/documents/Publications/Climate/air_pollution_climate_change_policy.pdf
Temby, Owen (2013). Integrating Climate, Energy, and Air Pollution Policies by Gary Bryner and Robert J. Duffy (review). Global Environment Politics. Volume 13, Number 4, November 2013 pp. 168-169
US Environmental Protection agency (2013). The Benefits and Costs of the Clean Air Act 1990 to 2010: EPA Report to Congress. Retrieved from http://yosemite.epa.gov/ee/epa/eerm.nsf/vwRepNumLookup/EE-0295A?OpenDocument