WHP Logo

The White Horse Press

Environmental Values

Contents of Volume 9

Other volumes of EV

Environmental Values

Appendix: Policy Research Brief
Conceptions of Value in Environmental Decision-Making

John O'Neill and Clive L. Spash

Environmental Values 9(2000): 521-536. doi: 10.3197/096327100129342191

Environmental problems have an ethical dimension. They are not just about the efficient use of resources. Justice in the distribution of environmental goods and burdens, fairness in the processes of environmental decision-making, the moral claims of future generations and non-humans, these and other ethical values inform the responses of citizens to environmental problems. How can these concerns enter into good policy-making processes?

Two expert-based approaches are commonly advocated for incorporating ethical values into environmental decision-making. One is an 'economic capture' approach, according to which existing economic methods can be successfully extended to include ethical concerns. For example, stated preference methods, especially contingent valuation, have been developed to try and capture ethical responses as 'non-use values' of the environment, in particular 'existence values'. The other is a 'moral expert' approach which confines economic methods to the analysis of welfare gains, and assumes committees of ethical experts will complement economic expertise.

Both approaches face problems in terms of addressing many widely held ethical values about the environment. Furthermore, both face problems concerning the democratic legitimacy of their procedures. How can policy-making be made responsive to different ethical values? What role is there for new deliberative and participatory methods? How far do existing decision-making institutions have the capacities to incorporate different modes of articulating environmental values?

This policy brief examines the limitations of current attempts to capture ethical values within existing economic instruments and considers how these limitations might be overcome. Section 1 examines the assumptions that standard economic theory makes about individuals when they express values and make choices about the environment. The current models of agents that inform policy-making are seen to be ill-suited to incorporating the ethical responses of agents and this reveals some of the policy failures that may result. Section 2 shows how the physical and social properties of many environmental goods prevent their being treated as commodities. Section 3 considers the problems surrounding conceptions of fairness and legitimacy in processes for environmental valuation. Section 4 raises questions concerning the capacities of policy-making institutions to take cognisance of the results of different methods for articulating environmental values.

KEYWORDS: contingent valuation, justice, fairness, efficiency, ethical values, policy-making

REFERENCES to other articles in Environmental Values:

What is the Value of Rangitoto Island? Dan Vadnjal and Martin O'Connor

CITATIONS in other Environmental Values articles:

Realms of Value: Conflicting Natural Resource Values and Incommensurability. Sarah Fleisher Trainor

Natura economica in Environmental ValuationKatrine Soma

Contingent Valuation: Comparing Participant Performance in Group-Based Approaches and Personal Interviews. Nele Lienhoop and Douglas C. MacMillan

Non-Market Coordination: Towards an Ecological Response to Austrian Economics. Dan Greenwood

Value Theory in Ecological Economics: The Contribution of a Political Economy of Wealth. Ali Douai

The Positioned Construction of Water Values: Pluralism, Positionality and Praxis. Antonio A.R. Ioris

Impure Procedural Justice in Climate Governance Systems. Marco Grasso and Simona Sacchi

The Problem of Inclusion in Deliberative Environmental Valuation. Andrés Vargas, Alex Lo, Michael Howes, Nicholas Rohde

This article is available online (PDF format) from Ingenta Journals. Access is free if your institution subscribes to Environmental Values.
Reprints of this article can be ordered from the British Library Document Supply Service or ingenta

Contact the publishers for subscriptions and back numbers of Environmental Values.

Other papers in this volume

The Old Vicarage, Winwick
Cambridgeshire, PE28 5PN, UK
Tel: +44 1832 293222